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

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tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
My biggest complaint about so many of these discussions is the tendency for the folk claiming casters are too good compared against martials to ignore how spells known/prepped works and assume that any niche spell no matter how niche is available & ready in any edge case situation no matter how contrived.

As to the OP's point about EK/AT, I'd be more than happy if those were the crunchy/high damage casters with the actual casters free to clam their own niche. For that to happen though actual casters like wizard & such would need spells & class mechanics that allow them to be casters who reliably proved themselves to be just as meaningful of a contributor to the average session as the martials do whenever a combat comes up.

On that point, fully mundane martials like champions and battlemasters and samurai are some of the only classes that are entirely reliant on DM fiat to be able to overcome resistance in monsters with what is their core class combat feature.
resistant to nonmagical bludgeoning piercing slashing & generally low AC's stacked up against energy resist, energy immune, magic resist, legendary resist & frequently noteworthy saves is nonsense when wotc goes out of their way to nullify resistant to nonmagic bludgeoning piercing & slashing. Magic items were originally created to balance out LFQW's effects, but 5e dialed back everything that could contribute to LFQW & left the magic items to invert it badly in many ways.
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Asisreo

Hero
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
This actually makes it more of an issue. If there is only 1 fight in an adventuring day and it takes 5-6 rounds to complete, the wizard has only 6 rounds to cast spells which mean they have only 6 chances to "get it right." Remember, a wizard cannot cast all their spells all at once. They take it turn-by-turn and if they're casting high-level spells, the amount of spells they can cast with an accurate guess dwindle in number and power.

Casting the 9th-level Wish for Forcecage only to have the creature pass a teleport save means that the Wizard can't attempt to True Polymorph in the encounter anymore.

And these series of guesses must continue, because actions are limited and truly strong spell slots aren't exactly the easiest to come by.
 

ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
I think it's fair to assume that if the dm is using a social challenge, social skills will work at that table.
It isn't. Persuasion, Deception, and Intimidation are not interpreted equally at every table. It is similar to how a lot of tables will let Acrobatics stand in for Athletics, or let Perception to entirely replace Investigation, and forget that Insight even exists.


But I think level 17 is a more valuable one to analyze anyways,

Ok; 136 vs 208 hp at level 17.

A fighter and a wizard have the same point buy constraints, and it is just as costly for both to pump constitution above 14.


This actually makes it more of an issue. If there is only 1 fight in an adventuring day and it takes 5-6 rounds to complete,

No, because those rounds can all be maximum level spells.

If you think a wizard at level 17 with the freedom to comfortably cast a level 9, 8, 7, 6, and then 1 or two 5th level spells is somehow advantaging a level 17 fighter, I don't think we are arguing from the same premise.

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Two ASIs are a candle in the wind compared to full caster progression.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
I think the reason this topic always is difficult and consensus is hardly ever agreed is because

a) we all want different preferences
b) we all play different ways.

B is very significant, because someone who may feel casters way overshadow martials is because maybe they are ignoring mitigating factors like spell components, or maybe they have few encounters between rests. Or maybe someone is only looking at comparing the powers of one class or another and ignoring the other things that impact balance (like armor, or hit points).

I want to be clear that I'm not advocating one preference of play as better than another. Just that it makes these types of discussions very hard to find common ground. There's just too many variables. How do you balance it out when one group plays one way, and another group plays another?

Should the person who wants martials to be on the same level as casters for powers and versatility be forced to play an eldritch knight? Should the person who doesn't want martials to have superhuman powers be forced to play a champion only? Is a martial power that has the same effectiveness as a spellcaster power simply a spell, but by another name, and if so, what's the aversion to just calling them spells?*

About the only truism I can see is that on paper, the classes are pretty balanced, but that all goes out the window based on how people play at their table, and gets worse the more they deviate from the core assumptions of the game design.

*This is something I struggle to understand. the argument "I don't want spells. I want martial powers (that for all intents and purposes, do the same thing as spells but with different flavor.)"
 

Undrave

Hero
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.
Intimidate is like the WORST skill in the game. Using it is always a huge risk of making things worst.
 

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.
Yes, Fighters have more HP than wizards. However, at high levels, they have very few tools to make themselves inaccessible to attackers, and almost no way to counter effects. A caster can apply their damage from range from within the protection of greater invisibility...or while flying , etc. And they get to do so using the kit of parts provided in the PHB. They also get counterspell, dispel magic, banishment, summon xyz, etc.

Fighters do not get to do any of this. They get to soak that damage. Period.

As it relates to DM fiat, I'd also point out the habit among several of the DMs on this board of disallowing martials to benefit from the very resources you've mentioned here. The classic is falling from a great height. There have been long threads arguing that if you fall far enough, you die no matter if you have the hp to survive the RAW damage.

I'd also point out that a large chunk of the unbalance relates to the relative impact of what you can accomplish with spells vs. physical attacks. There's a whole list of conditions you can apply at the end of the book. Without spellcasting, most martials get access to two of them, prone, and unconscious. Meanwhile, even in the damage, category, a commonly used baseline is Warlock Agonizing blast(spellcaster at will damage they can apply from range), which several martials struggle to match. Basically it just feels bad, especially for melee martials, to have to spend the effort to get close enough, and incur the risk of being close enough, do your damage, and then look at the spellcasters doing comparable damage from 120 feet away.
 

Shadowedeyes

Explorer
Everyone has their own take on the problem(or lack thereof). But for myself, I don't necessarily need martial abilities to do the same thing as spells. It would be nice if martial characters got some unique and flavorful abilities that felt as meaningful as some spells do that couldn't be easily duplicated by magic.
 


ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
Fighters do not get to do any of this.
An EK can do some of that, but only a handful of times per day, and only from level 19 (for G.Invis) or 13 (fly) onward.

Animal handling says, "Hold my beer um, reins."


(I would say performance, but if you're using that, you're probably playing with Bards already, in which case all hope is already lost ....)
Don't forget all those bladesingers who get force-proficient in performance against their will.
 


Sacrosanct

Legend
Everyone has their own take on the problem(or lack thereof). But for myself, I don't necessarily need martial abilities to do the same thing as spells. It would be nice if martial characters got some unique and flavorful abilities that felt as meaningful as some spells do that couldn't be easily duplicated by magic.
Such as? Not being flippant, serious question.
 

I was thinking back to my own experience with high-level non-magic martials in 5e and I realized: I don't have any such experience. I've played quite a bit of high-level 5e (most of the games I'm go well in to the upper teens if not all the way to 20th level), but everyone has some kind of magic to call on, as a class feature. The least magical options I've seen in play are Rune Knight and Monk.

I have noticed that full casters don't really overshadow weapon users in high-level combat, because the damage output of a high-level weapon user, whether directly or indirectly aided by magic, is way above what casters can do. A well-placed 6+ level spell is a big deal, but you still gotta hit the dragon for 500 hp, which the fighters are uniquely capable of.

As for out-of-combat utility: IME dm's who get to this point account for what the pc's can do when designing challenges, and roleplay-based options (ie followers and connections) are pretty good equalizers.

Edit: I recalled that there was a Battlemaster fighter in one game that got to 18th. Between maneuvers and a magic sword, he didn't feel particularly underwhelming or mundane.
 
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Warpiglet-7

Adventurer
People want it all.

EK suck! They have no utility! Could you take ritual caster with feats? “Yeah but what about gwm!” Ok. Could you take find familiar at 1, light as a cantrip and prestidgitation? Yeah but what about firebolt!

how about a multiclass wizard fighter? They sucktoo! they don’t get as many feats as a fighter or as many high level spells as a wizard!

yeah. I think the anti EK stuff is in line with anti fighter wizard stuff. The restrictions on schools of magic play a role with the EK bias however. And that’s a design thing.

feats really get rid of this concern though if you use them. Magic initiate, ritual caster and the two feats in tashas blow it apart. The fey and shadow magic feats open it u a great deal inmho. But you have to really want the versatility and make an investment.

none of this is an indictment of dissatisfaction with EK, btw. Just a statement about flexibility.

if you get minor image and silent image you can do a lot of nutty stuff. Maybe take friends as a cantrip....

you gotta invest and yes sacrifice to get more though
 

Asisreo

Hero
If you think a wizard at level 17 with the freedom to comfortably cast a level 9, 8, 7, 6, and then 1 or two 5th level spells is somehow advantaging a level 17 fighter, I don't think we are arguing from the same premise.
To give an illustration of exactly what I mean, do you mind playing a simple game with me?

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.

Note: This challenge extends to all in the thread. I'll try to evaluate each one. Due to the nature of the encounter, I do expect some to come up with a good chance of succeeding in the challenge, but I still would like to use it as a point.
 
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ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
feats really get rid of this concern though if you use them. Magic initiate, ritual caster and the two feats in tashas blow it apart.

They really don't. 1 extra hex or hunters mark and 1 misty step a day and the tomfoolery that is War Magic in Tier 2 is just treading water. By tier 3, of course, War magic is utterly laughable, the Hexblade next door finally has EA+PAM+GWM online with shadow of moil, and you're halfway through the tier before you get access to..... fireball.
 

ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
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.
Only if there is also an equal CR encounter made entirely of 1/4 CR archers, with a 100 foot chasm between the fighter and the archers, and a wall boxing the fighter in.
 

Because --often--if someone wants to play a Fighter they want to do what they think of as Fighter-things. If they want to play a Rogue, they want to do what they think of as Rogue-things. They're not playing a Fighter or a Rogue to do Wizard s[tuff]. If they wanted to do Wizard s[tuff] they'd play a Wizard.
I agree. I would also add that there is a list of spells that are inherently unbalanced. Even if they are a limited resource, nothing a character can get in a single level in the game can compete with them. Head of that list is Wish and Simulcrum.

What could you possible give a fighter that competes with casting Wish once per day?
 


Mort

Legend
Supporter
This actually makes it more of an issue. If there is only 1 fight in an adventuring day and it takes 5-6 rounds to complete, the wizard has only 6 rounds to cast spells which mean they have only 6 chances to "get it right." Remember, a wizard cannot cast all their spells all at once. They take it turn-by-turn and if they're casting high-level spells, the amount of spells they can cast with an accurate guess dwindle in number and power.

Casting the 9th-level Wish for Forcecage only to have the creature pass a teleport save means that the Wizard can't attempt to True Polymorph in the encounter anymore.

And these series of guesses must continue, because actions are limited and truly strong spell slots aren't exactly the easiest to come by.

1. IMO focusing on extremely high level play (or even mid-high level) isn't ideal. Most games never make it that far, with the great majority maxing out at 12 or so.

2. While casters certainly have limited resources, the resources they do have tend to define encounters. At low level a sleep spell can turn a difficult encounter into a cakewalk. At low-mid level spells like hypnotic pattern can swing an encounter from nearly unwinnable to medium or easier. I was in a 10th level party where hypnotic pattern completely changed a likely TPK (large force of fire giants) into a mop up scenario - clear victory.

3. The whole "casters have to resource manage and martials can go all day..." argument is extremely misleading. Martials have serious resources too, for ex. HPs are a resource. And while casters have to watch HP too, they don't (intentionally) put themselves in harm's way like martials do. Further, unless you have a DM who is extremely good at controlling the pace of an adventure - casters tend to control the downtime, so the resource management is less an issue.

Now this is not to say things aren't more balanced in 5e. Casters appear similar to prior editions but concentration, less spell slots, the nerfing of many spells and (especially) the clamping down on easy item creation has actually gone a long way to taming their power. Which simply means, in a properly run games, you need a mix of martials and casters to prevail.
 

Eh, I'll take the unpopular opinion that the "problem" is overinflated nonsense based on whiteboard theory crafting. Having played to the epic tier, and about to hit 15th level in our current game, the martials are perfectly fine. Are there things casters can do that they can't? Yup, but that doesn't make that much of a difference because the barbarian and paladin can do things they can't too. Out of combat utility is also overrated, since the rogue can do many of these things just as well, without needing a spell slot or preparing the spell.
 

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