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

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Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad
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 don't recall anyone ever complaining Rogues do not have enough versatility or utility out of combat.
 

Asisreo

Hero
Given the length of time the argument has been a part of the D&D community (i.e. almost since the beginning, so 40+ years) it must have some traction. Though of course I cannot produce hard numbers to back this up. How you "feel" about the numbers is not something I can judge, but I'd like to see what data leads you to such 'feelings.' Dismissing it as something that is grognard thing may be accurate for all I know, but I'd hesitate to proclaim it as small a group as claimed above.
I've gotten this feeling because of the 7 years I've played 5e, I've never had a player tell me or the DM that they felt underpowered due to the chassis of martial classes.

They've felt underpowered because they don't exactly know how to play a class effectively or magic items had unbalanced the party, but the frequency of underpowered comments come just as much from caster classes as martials.

So I only see these things online on forums than anywhere else.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Bladesingers are Wizard with a complex 'Blade Song' thing you need to maintain to get the best out of its ability... why would I want to play that when I can just play a Blade Lock with permanent Mage Armor?
Drastically more spell slots, bigger spell list, selective upcasting, ritual casting of any spell you know, utility...
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I've gotten this feeling because of the 7 years I've played 5e, I've never had a player tell me or the DM that they felt underpowered due to the chassis of martial classes.

They've felt underpowered because they don't exactly know how to play a class effectively or magic items had unbalanced the party, but the frequency of underpowered comments come just as much from caster classes as martials.

So I only see these things online on forums than anywhere else.

Selection bias? :)

The people that discuss issues on forums are not usually representative of the TTRPG community as a whole.
 

Undrave

Hero
Drastically more spell slots, bigger spell list, selective upcasting, ritual casting of any spell you know, utility...
I specifically mentioned that I'm tired of full casters and that the next 'magical' character I'm playing will be a Warlock so that it's SIMPLER... so yeah I'm not playing a Bladesinger.
 

the Jester

Legend
So turn the game into a boring slugfest of endless combat? No thanks.
Not all encounters need to be combats. It's possible to design challenges that all characters, martial and otherwise, can contribute to and that expend some of those pesky spell slots and other consumable abilities. 4e was pretty good at this- between traps, hazards, and skill challenges, there are a lot of examples of the type of things I am talking about.
 

Asisreo

Hero
Allow me to reframe the entire discussion.

I'm hearing that there's a subsection of players who would enjoy a class that doesn't rely on magic but still has comparable utility.

So, let's imagine for a moment that this class came to be. Does this fix the Martial v Caster problem?
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I specifically mentioned that I'm tired of full casters and that the next 'magical' character I'm playing will be a Warlock so that it's SIMPLER... so yeah I'm not playing a Bladesinger.
Gotcha. You asked why you'd play one instead of the other. I was providing potential answers to that question.
Not all encounters need to be combats. It's possible to design challenges that all characters, martial and otherwise, can contribute to and that expend some of those pesky spell slots and other consumable abilities. 4e was pretty good at this- between traps, hazards, and skill challenges, there are a lot of examples of the type of things I am talking about.
Right. And almost none of that exists in 5E. Exploration and social encounters are all that's left besides combat. You'd have to grind through a lot of particularly difficult encounters to get casters to drop spells at a high enough rate for it to be a meaningful ding to their power. It's not impossible, sure. But it's dramatically easier with combat. The game assumes something like 5-8 combat encounters in a day (I forget what the suggested number is). To approach the same amount of assumed spell use as that you'd need...what...4-5x as many non-combat encounters? One social encounter can typically be resolved with one skill check or one spell. One exploration encounter can be resolved with one skill check or one spell. Pushing the players to use their spells instead of their skills would be hard in the first place. In my experience the players would rather spin their wheels for an hour or more in game trying every single skill and pixelbitching to the ends of the earth rather than spent one spell slot they don't have to outside of combat that's not a preparation for later combat (mage armor) or to avoid combat during a rest (tiny hut).
 
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Voadam

Legend
I don't recall anyone ever complaining Rogues do not have enough versatility or utility out of combat.
I don't have enough experience with high level 5e to say whether their skills get outclassed by magic the way they did in 3e.

Do most full casters outclass rogues at out of combat stuff at high levels? How do rogues do versus bards? How does the thief or assassin or investigator (from XGE) do versus the arcane trickster?

In B/X and AD&D a thief's skills were terrible until mid to high levels. And then magic-users could get invisibility and knock at 3rd level. In 3e wizards could make 50 charge wands of those spells at 5th level.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Allow me to reframe the entire discussion.

I'm hearing that there's a subsection of players who would enjoy a class that doesn't rely on magic but still has comparable utility.

So, let's imagine for a moment that this class came to be. Does this fix the Martial v Caster problem?
No, because it doesn't fix the power imbalance, only the utility imbalance.
 

Asisreo

Hero
No, because it doesn't fix the power imbalance, only the utility imbalance.
Before I go on, I want to isolate some things:

Feats, Multiclassing, and other Optional Rules.

Many people regard feats as helping martials, but I want you to bare with me for a second. Let's ignore them.



Okay, my response:
High-level fighters have more than double the HP as Wizards given a typical build.

If the fighter has a +5 to Con and a Wizard has a +1, the fighter has 224 HP while the Wizard only has 102. Giving the Wizard a +5 in Con pushes them to 182 which is still significantly less than a Fighter.

As for damage, the fighter attacks AC while the Wizard attacks ST, usually. AC remains somewhat low at most points but ST's at higher levels are usually very high, well within the double digits. There are also Magic Resistance and Legendary Resistance.

This isn't to say Wizards completely flop during combat, but they must be extremely judicious about how they wish to distribute their damage and effects. So much so that I would even say that a Wizard player with an insufficient understanding of combat/spells would be a liability more than an asset.

The possibility of Wizards outdoing Fighters in combat is clearly there, but outside of focus-fire single-enemy NOVA situations, Wizards have to work much harder that Fighters to get remotely the same mileage.

So, in a way, Martials can be seen as the safe option in combat, and the closer your class is to a wizard, the more carefully you have to pay attention to even be relevant.
 

ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
So, let's imagine for a moment that this class came to be. Does this fix the Martial v Caster problem?

Well, for one it would depend on how well implemented it was.

Look at the n^2 versions of ranger there are - even with spells in the mix it is hard to get the balance right.

That aside - what could this class has that (1) is not magic, and (2) can compete with foresight, force cage, dimension door/teleport, simulacrum, greater invisibility, banishment etcetera? These all have very strong combat and out of combat uses (well, no combat uses for teleport, but plenty for dimension door).


High-level fighters have more than double the HP as Wizards given a typical build.
124 vs 192 hp at level 15 with a 14 con for either. The gap isn't that wide at all, unless the fighter is also stacking con more than the wizard; the reverse is probably more likely.


So, in a way, Martials can be seen as the safe option in combat, and the closer your class is to a wizard, the more carefully you have to pay attention to even be relevant.

However if the adventuring day is short (as many are) this isn't much of an issue because the wizard doesn't come close to running out of resources.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Allow me to reframe the entire discussion.

I'm hearing that there's a subsection of players who would enjoy a class that doesn't rely on magic but still has comparable utility.

So, let's imagine for a moment that this class came to be. Does this fix the Martial v Caster problem?
It becomes a key on the toolbelt towards fixing certain problems, but doesn't become the entire workshop.

Basically, it doesn't fix the problem itself, but it give players who are willing to use the class a way to avoid the problem. It might not help the DM with his NPCs though, and if another player doesn't like that single class, they'll still have problems.
 

the Jester

Legend
Right. And almost none of that exists in 5E. Exploration and social encounters are all that's left besides combat. You'd have to grind through a lot of particularly difficult encounters to get casters to drop spells at a high enough rate for it to be a meaningful ding to their power. It's not impossible, sure. But it's dramatically easier with combat. The game assumes something like 5-8 combat encounters in a day (I forget what the suggested number is). To approach the same amount of assumed spell use as that you'd need...what...4-5x as many non-combat encounters? One social encounter can typically be resolved with one skill check or one spell. One exploration encounter can be resolved with one skill check or one spell. Pushing the players to use their spells instead of their skills would be hard in the first place. In my experience the players would rather spin their wheels for an hour or more in game trying every single spell and pixelbitching to the ends of the earth rather than spent one spell slot they don't have to outside of combat that's not a preparation for later combat (mage armor) or to avoid combat during a rest (tiny hut).
It doesn't have to be like that, though. It's a matter of setting expectations- that the rewards are worth the expenditure of resources, and that failure means you don't get those rewards.

As to social or exploration challenges being resolvable with a single spell or check, it's pretty easy to make more complex, longer-form challenges that are meaningful and allow multiple character types to contribute. The social challenge isn't "get the guards to let us in to the king's ball", it is more like, "Find Princess Ashara and convince her to betray her family". It includes things like getting into the ball, but also things like figuring out what might convince the princess; blending in or diverting attention so that nobody notices the out-of-place pcs; finding the princess while preventing the pcs' adversary, who is also attending the ball, from having them removed; securing a private place to talk to the princess; and actually persuading her. While a suggestion might handle one step along the way, it will certainly not resolve the whole thing. And everyone can find a way to contribute. The fighter might be able to intimidate information from the princess' acquaintance; the rogue can unlock the door of a private room; the paladin can boldly approach their adversary and converse with him, seeking to keep him from having them thrown out through force of personality and by engaging him in a public but nevertheless very polite duel of words; and so on.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad
I don't have enough experience with high level 5e to say whether their skills get outclassed by magic the way they did in 3e.

Do most full casters outclass rogues at out of combat stuff at high levels? How do rogues do versus bards? How does the thief or assassin or investigator (from XGE) do versus the arcane trickster?

In B/X and AD&D a thief's skills were terrible until mid to high levels. And then magic-users could get invisibility and knock at 3rd level. In 3e wizards could make 50 charge wands of those spells at 5th level.
Arguably the other subclasses for rogue have more out of combat abilities than the arcane trickster on average, not less.

Inquisitor gets bonuses to Insight, Perception, Investigation, and can see through illusions, shapechangers, and similar things attempting to disguise their identities.

Thief gets bonuses to sleight of hand checks, climbing, jumping, sneaking, and using magical devices.

Assassin gets bonuses to disguises, false identities, and mimicking of speech writing and behavior of others.

There are similar out of combat abilities for some other rogue subclasses too, like Mastermind.
 

ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
The fighter might be able to intimidate information from the princess' acquaintance
The fighter is quite likely to be worse at this than a paladin, bard, warlock, or rogue, and that's if one is even at a table where intimidation ever works. Maybe the table allows for Strength (Intimidation) or Dexterity (Intimidation) checks, but that seems even more rare than a table where Charisma (Intimidation) actually works.

Chances are they would be most useful standing around looking mean (performing the help action) while someone with both proficiency and a decent cha makes the check.

That's some Ralph Wiggum level helping, right there.
 

the Jester

Legend
The fighter is quite likely to be worse at this than a paladin, bard, warlock, or rogue, and that's if one is even at a table where intimidation ever works. Maybe the table allows for Strength (Intimidation) or Dexterity (Intimidation) checks, but that seems even more rare than a table where Charisma (Intimidation) actually works.
I think it's fair to assume that if the dm is using a social challenge, social skills will work at that table.

You make a fair criticism about the fighter, but he can do other things. Maybe instead of the rogue picking the lock of a private room, the fighter climbs up and in the window from outside and unlocks it from within. That was just one example of many possible ones. He might use his understanding of guard shifts to help the party get inside when there's a momentary lapse in security. He might pick a fight to distract attention from the rest of the group. He might engage the party's adversary in a drinking contest to keep him from throwing them out. Etc.
 

Asisreo

Hero
124 vs 192 hp at level 15 with a 14 con for either. The gap isn't that wide at all, unless the fighter is also stacking con more than the wizard; the reverse is probably more likely.
I'd find it atypical for a fighter to have only 14 CON at level 15. Since fighters have 7 ASI's and their two most important ability scores are one of the physical damage ones and CON, I'd assume they'd max out both at around level 8 or 12.

But I think level 17 is a more valuable one to analyze anyways, since the very essence of most spells thought as problematic is gated behind DM fiat (costly components) or the Wish spell.
 

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