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

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Mort

Legend
Supporter
But I'm giving you the opportunity to demonstrate how powerful casters are and giving you "cheat codes" to help. The challenge is to show that casters have absolutely 0 problems engaging in combat.

I don't contest that Wizards have great utility, but that utility is only out-of-combat. Wizards have a breadth of options in-combat as well, but how powerful are those options actually when you just don't know if the game works.

But it seems like you really want me to provide you a sample list. Here's one you can use, but you're not bound to it:

Cantrips: Firebolt, Minor Illusion, Light, Prestidigitation, Mage Hand.
1st: Shield (Spell Mastery), Mage Armor
2nd: Invisibility (Spell Mastery), Mirror Image, Misty Step
3rd: Counterspell (Signature Spell), Fly, Haste, Dispel Magic (Signature Spell
4th: Polymorph, Greater Invisibility, Dimension Door, Banishment
5th: Animate Objects, Wall of Force
6th: Arcane Gate, Globe of Invulnerability, Disintegrate
7th: Delayed Blast Fireball, Finger of Death, Teleport
8th: Demiplane, Maze,
9th: Wish, True Polymorph, Meteor Swarm, Time Stop

Is this a fair spell list? You can use these spells and list the spells you wish to cast in-combat against these enemies.

The problem with your scenario is:

1. People are assuming it's a gotcha scenario and that it's not in good faith - I'm not saying it is; but most of the time - that's how these play out;
2. The point of the wizard - they don't have to play by the rules you presented (unlike martials). You said the wizard knows they are on the run and likely being pursued. So in that time - they've cast a multitude of divination spells to discern what's following them, why are they following them, what are their weaknesses etc. The wizard then does his best to dictate the terms of when he's "caught" and he (and his party) optimally resolve the scenario.
 

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One thing I've noticed is that in games I've played in or ran, almost everyone is some kind of caster. Noone plays a Fighter. (I realise that the Fighter seems to be popular according to various metrics but I'm not seeing that translate to my games with experience gamers).

I think part of this is not just the Martial vs Caster thing, but the fact that there are so many caster classes that this creates the false impression that they are alll filling different niches. So you end up with a Sorcerer, Warlock and Two clerics (I find that players seem more likely to double up on classes when their subclasses are distinguished as part of a 1st level choice). I think if you had a greater variety of classes without magic, you'd probably see more variety there. I think part of the issue is the versatility of magic, but part of it is always the way the game presents its choices.

Is this a problem? I don't know. It feels like it twists D&D from what I'm used to which which was far less magic centred. From my perspective I sort of feel like the whole thing feels more like a superheroes game - and that's not I guess a bad thing, but I tend to think the whole thing would be a lot cleaner, and the setting more coherent if I just leant in to that. (ie. rewrite the character facing system so that rather than all the characters getting their superpowers from amorphously defined gods or other vague sources, actually come up with a system of magical superheroic mutations and a setting constructed around the existence of such and go from there.)
 
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ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
But I'm giving you the opportunity to demonstrate how powerful casters are and giving you "cheat codes" to help

That isn't fun, and not why I'd play a wizard. Rolling up a high level wizard and picking spells all at once is probably the least fun way to do it.

Look, this concept has persisted for so long it is a trope.
1. People are assuming it's a gotcha scenario and that it's not in good faith - I'm not saying it is; but most of the time - that's how these play out;
More or less.

Is this a problem? I don't know. It feels like it twists D&D from what I'm used to which which was far less magic centred. From my perspective I sort of feel like the whole thing feels more like a superheroes game
I miss some of the constraints on casters in earlier editions; 2nd ed in particular. Specific prepped slots for wizards in true Jack Vance fashion, fickle deities for clerics, 1d4 hit points a level for wizards, all of it.

In those days levels 1-5 were sheer terror for a wizard, and they were more rare at the table because of it. And the party really needed a fighter to take a lightning bolt or breath weapon to the face.
 

D1Tremere

Adventurer
In 3.5 D&D I had a half-ogre barbarian with a vow of poverty. That character is still talked about today for the insane things he could do without magic. He once carried an entire ship down a mountain. Melee can still do amazing things, it just takes planning.
 

Asisreo

Fiendish Attorney
1. People are assuming it's a gotcha scenario and that it's not in good faith - I'm not saying it is; but most of the time - that's how these play out;
2. The point of the wizard - they don't have to play by the rules you presented (unlike martials). You said the wizard knows they are on the run and likely being pursued. So in that time - they've cast a multitude of divination spells to discern what's following them, why are they following them, what are their weaknesses etc. The wizard then does his best to dictate the terms of when he's "caught" and he (and his party) optimally resolve the scenario
For 1, you can hold me to my words. I'll present the monster after...well I wanted multiple people to respond but I guess I'll do it after the first response.

As for 2, I've given you as much context as the DM themselves would have had in the play of the adventure outside of the specific name of the monster itself. They're law enforcers that are after you because the party had essentially taken a McGuffin that is important to the plot. You can make up whatever the McGuffin looks, it can be weightless, whatever. There isn't really anymore information to dole out that I don't believe is obvious, but if you have any more specific questions you think would help, I can answer them if they're relevant.

Again, if you feel it unjust, you can hold me to my word.
 

Asisreo

Fiendish Attorney
That isn't fun, and not why I'd play a wizard. Rolling up a high level wizard and picking spells all at once is probably the least fun way to do it.
With all due respect, this exercise wasn't really in the interest of fun. Maybe someone can derive fun, but I'd also rather spend my monday nights doing something more than evaluate a spell's percent chance of success.

But I'm doing it in good-faith to decipher the other side of the argument. Because it feels like being excluded from the side of the table that "knows stuff" but doesn't want to share.
 

The issue with casters is really isn't easily solving some individual encounter (though they can often do that,) it is bypassing and trivialising huge chunks of potential adventuring content. Leomund's invincible bunker, various communication, scrying and teleportation or other travel spells simply make a huge amount of stuff that would be challenging to mundanes utterly trivial, sometimes literally skipping it. Hell, casters can trivialise death! You literally have to designs whole adventures completely differently if high(ish) level casters are present.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Out of curiousity, how often do people actually see grumbling from the other players when someone brings a utility-focused caster to the table? In my experience, the other players are usually thrilled, because the utility caster's spells give the entire party many more strategic and tactial options.
extremely often at my AL tables where everyone gets
1621295842035.png
with no GM intervention, they just pick them & show up. Then top it off with the following magic item choices:
1621295998260.png
just for showing up with a character of appropriate level.

They all get to choose a faction (about as meaningful as pokemon go team choice) , that choice also lets them select from these magic items
1621296156427.png
All of those choices need to fit within their "magic item limit"
1621296210429.png

1621296279883.png
I regularly get told my table is one of the more caster friendly ones (by both martials & especially casters) because I stretch the limits of what AL allows so much & don't see casters notably more or less effective at my non-AL table or when I get the be one of the players. I never really looked too hard at it & just assumed wotc had the math ok until I ra DiA & started noticing how completely bonkers it is at both average & extreme.
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
extremely often at my AL tables where everyone gets
with no GM intervention, they just pick them & show up. Then top it off with the following magic item choices:
just for showing up with a character of appropriate level.

They all get to choose a faction (about as meaningful as pokemon go team choice) , that choice also lets them select from these magic items
All of those choices need to fit within their "magic item limit"
I regularly get told my table is one of the more caster friendly ones (by both martials & especially casters) because I stretch the limits of what AL allows so much & don't see casters notably more or less effective at my non-AL table or when I get the be one of the players. I never really looked too hard at it & just assumed wotc had the math ok until I ra DiA & started noticing how completely bonkers it is at both average & extreme.
I'm confused. My question was whether people see players complain when another player brings a utility-focused caster to the table. What does the availability of AL magic items have to do with whether or not players complain about utility-focused casters? The only items on that list with active utility applications are the Ring of Animal Friendship and the Ring of the Ram.
 

Asisreo

Fiendish Attorney
The issue with casters is really isn't easily solving some individual encounter (though they can often do that,) it is bypassing and trivialising huge chunks of potential adventuring content. Leomund's invincible bunker, various communication, scrying and teleportation or other travel spells simply make a huge amount of stuff that would be challenging to mundanes utterly trivial, sometimes literally skipping it. Hell, casters can trivialise death! You literally have to designs whole adventures completely differently if high(ish) level casters are present.
I took this as a given irregardless of casters.

Because if I was a DM doing stuff for an adventure, I'd need to present close to airtight challenges absent of the entire party's class.

Because if I put a challenge that must have a specific spell casted to prevail, then the wizard that happened to not prepare it against my thoughts would have been hurt.

And if I wanted to publish, who knows what magic items the DM prior could have given previous to the adventure, so there's much to be considered.

I don't feel like a challenge that can be prevailed by anything short of clever thinking deserves to be called a challenge in terms of exploration.

And my point is really this:

Wizards are good at utility, Fighters are good at fighting. If Wizards are not as good as combat as Fighters are not as good as utility, would this not be a type of balance?
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
I'm confused. My question was whether people see players complain when another player brings a utility-focused caster to the table. What does the availability of AL magic items have to do with whether or not players complain about utility-focused casters? The only items on that list with active utility applications are the Ring of Animal Friendship and the Ring of the Ram.
The complaint is usually that the casters are massively outshined by martials in just about every pillar with scorlock being an exception for social where they stand on good footing due to high charisma. Regarding "Utility Caster" as a concept itself concentration and me spells tend to put a huge crimp in what they can bring.

I more often see someone desperately trying to peddle (de)buffs & control spells as leverage for some kind of strategy beyond facerolling through encounters by running up & repeatedly bashing targets. If the caster gets lucky enough to have the opponent still in a good arrangement for web or something when their turn rolls around the group might take advantage on it.


It really comes down to nobody actually needing it even slightly though. The only time I can think of it mattering was when the martials managed to get involved with both a marlinth & bunch of knolls at the same time towards the end of DiA when an artillerist managed to web the gnolls & spam temphp to keep folks up during the marling the fight. Put in perspective how "thrilled" they were, a fight with yeenagau followed where the artillerist could not even get the martials to sacrifice flanking advantage for a single round to be within range of the healing turret. Given the level & equipment the martials needed to roll like an 8-9 to hit so it's not like dropping flank would cripple them
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Wizards are good at utility, Fighters are good at fighting. If Wizards are not as good as combat as Fighters are not as good as utility, would this not be a type of balance?
Sure, it would be a type of balance - but your premise is off. Casters (wizards, bards, sorcerers etc.) are different at fighting, not worse.

The bard casts faerie fire and gives the martials advantage against the majority of enemies; the martials then pound the enemies into goo. The bard didn't do a point of damage, but did he contribute any less than the martials?

The wizard casts hypnotic pattern and incapacitates many of the enemies and allows the martials to, once again, pound the enemies into goo while getting hit minimally in return (thus minimizing true weakness of martials - that monsters hit back). Again the wizard didn't do a point of damage, but did he contribute less than the martials?

The sorcerer twin spells haste on the two martials in the party - thus allowing them to hit more often while getting hit less in return. Again, not a point of damage, but did she not massively contribute to winning the combat?

The wizard (or sorcerer or bard) sees that the fighter is down to single digit HPs and the cleric doesn't go until after the bad guys. He polymorphs the fighter into a giant ape. The fighter now has 157 HP (likely much more than his actual max at all but extreme levels) and a pretty decent attack - once again allowing him to pound the bad guys into goo. The caster didn't do a point of damage but did he contribute less than the martials?

Casters contribute differently to a fight - not worse.
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
The complaint is usually that the casters are massively outshined by martials in just about every pillar with scorlock being an exception for social where they stand on good footing due to high charisma. Regarding "Utility Caster" as a concept itself concentration and me spells tend to put a huge crimp in what they can bring.

I more often see someone desperately trying to peddle (de)buffs & control spells as leverage for some kind of strategy beyond facerolling through encounters by running up & repeatedly bashing targets. If the caster gets lucky enough to have the opponent still in a good arrangement for web or something when their turn rolls around the group might take advantage on it.


It really comes down to nobody actually needing it even slightly though. The only time I can think of it mattering was when the martials managed to get involved with both a marlinth & bunch of knolls at the same time towards the end of DiA when an artillerist managed to web the gnolls & spam temphp to keep folks up during the marling the fight. Put in perspective how "thrilled" they were, a fight with yeenagau followed where the artillerist could not even get the martials to sacrifice flanking advantage for a single round to be within range of the healing turret. Given the level & equipment the martials needed to roll like an 8-9 to hit so it's not like dropping flank would cripple them
I think we're talking about different things. You seem to be taking about a perception of lackluster caster contribution to combat.

I'm asking whether anyone sees players grumble (because they don't want to be outclassed in utility) when another player brings a utility-focused (i.e. out-of-combat-focused) caster. I'm asking because the major complaint being discussed in this thread seems to be casters outshining martials in utility, but my personal experience is that martial (and combat caster) players are thrilled when someone brings a spellcaster that focuses on casting utility spells out of combat.

If casters outshining martials in utility is a problem in actual play, I would expect the players of martials to prefer that casters to stick to combat spells. Since I haven't seen that occur, I'm asking if other people have.
 

I took this as a given irregardless of casters.

Because if I was a DM doing stuff for an adventure, I'd need to present close to airtight challenges absent of the entire party's class.

Because if I put a challenge that must have a specific spell casted to prevail, then the wizard that happened to not prepare it against my thoughts would have been hurt.

And if I wanted to publish, who knows what magic items the DM prior could have given previous to the adventure, so there's much to be considered.

I don't feel like a challenge that can be prevailed by anything short of clever thinking deserves to be called a challenge in terms of exploration.

And my point is really this:

Wizards are good at utility, Fighters are good at fighting. If Wizards are not as good as combat as Fighters are not as good as utility, would this not be a type of balance?
This could be considered a kind of balance if the amounts strong suits of both were tuned appropriately to be even close.

Your example involved an encounter with a single creature. This is a best case scenario for the martial in terms of relative contribution in combat. Add 1 additional creature in range, and the fighter's contribution remains the same while the caster's contribution can double. And it works like that for each incremental enemy. So in the combat pillar, the martial goes from competitive to completely outclassed verrrry quickly, and this applies no matter how difficult the enemies are (with limited exceptions for creatures that specifically negate magic or are harmful to each other). This is literal linear fighter quadratic wizard progression.

Also note, the caster in many cases will have a selection of attack vectors, attacking AC if desired, or one of several different saves. If the enemy looks beefy, they can target Dex, frail casters can have their Con targeted, dumb creatures can get subjected to one of 4 mental saves. The martial, with limited exception, gets to choose from targeting AC, and also AC.

Compare with relative utility. Perhaps it's lack of creativity, but I struggle to think of a single utility scenario where the martial outclasses the caster unless the starting premise involves some kind of antimagic something or other. Climbing..fly or spider climb...Swimming..alter self, maybe polymorph..Falling...also fly or feather fall or polymorph..talking..charm, modify memory, dominate, glibness...Etc.

So on the one hand, the caster can potentially outshine the fighter in the thing the fighter is best at...and the fighter can outshine the caster only when the caster is bound, gagged, hooded, and all their fingers broken.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Sure, it would be a type of balance - but your premise is off. Casters (wizards, bards, sorcerers etc.) are different at fighting, not worse.

The bard casts faerie fire and gives the martials advantage against the majority of enemies; the martials then pound the enemies into goo. The bard didn't do a point of damage, but did he contribute any less than the martials?

The wizard casts hypnotic pattern and incapacitates many of the enemies and allows the martials to, once again, pound the enemies into goo while getting hit minimally in return (thus minimizing true weakness of martials - that monsters hit back). Again the wizard didn't do a point of damage, but did he contribute less than the martials?

The sorcerer twin spells haste on the two martials in the party - thus allowing them to hit more often while getting hit less in return. Again, not a point of damage, but did she not massively contribute to winning the combat?

The wizard (or sorcerer or bard) sees that the fighter is down to single digit HPs and the cleric doesn't go until after the bad guys. He polymorphs the fighter into a giant ape. The fighter now has 157 HP (likely much more than his actual max at all but extreme levels) and a pretty decent attack - once again allowing him to pound the bad guys into goo. The caster didn't do a point of damage but did he contribute less than the martials?

Casters contribute differently to a fight - not worse.
And the rounds between casting those massive game changing spells, the casters also get to endlessly pew pew with ranged damage cantrips or a good supply of low level damage spells, drop big AoE spells like fireball, lightning bolt, drop walls splitting big groups of enemies, drop snow storm to slow groups of enemies. With the scaling of cantrips, casters do about the same as the regular (non-burst / NOVA) damage output of martials...plus they can alter the fabric of reality with a snap of their fingers.

This really is a ridiculous argument. Being able to cast the wish spell is not balanced by wizards having fewer hit points.
 

Many people have a really hard time characters being so good at something that they can transcend real world limitations - unless magic is involved, then it's totally fine - because magic.

A bit ago there was a long thread where a decent number of people were arguing that the 11th level rogue ability reliable talent was just too good for gasp a mundane person. That it's ridiculous to believe that a rogue could do that without magic.
Yep. Seen the same thing with fall damage. "There's no way the barbarian could survive that...just ignore all those hit points intended to reflect their ability to survive stuff..oh look the Wizard decided to float down here, because magic"
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Compare with relative utility. Perhaps it's lack of creativity, but I struggle to think of a single utility scenario where the martial outclasses the caster unless the starting premise involves some kind of antimagic something or other. Climbing..fly or spider climb...Swimming..alter self, maybe polymorph..Falling...also fly or feather fall or polymorph..talking..charm, modify memory, dominate, glibness...Etc.

Yeah and notice how most published dungeons of mid to high have the "hamstring the caster" section: Teleport doesn't work because reasons, scry doesn't work because reasons, find the path doesn't work because reasons etc.

Not too many published adventures have a "hamstring the martials section." I honestly can't think of any - any out there?
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
@Gammadoodler that "Add 1 additional creature in range, and the fighter's contribution remains the same while the caster's contribution can double." is missing "and they are arranged on the grid for the aoe/line and the martials are not sandwiched between" as blasting bob is usually considered poor form given that bob tends to do similar or better damage each round as each of the targets in that AOE.


I think we're talking about different things. You seem to be taking about a perception of lackluster caster contribution to combat.

I'm asking whether anyone sees players grumble (because they don't want to be outclassed in utility) when another player brings a utility-focused (i.e. out-of-combat-focused) caster. I'm asking because the major complaint being discussed in this thread seems to be casters outshining martials in utility, but my personal experience is that martial (and combat caster) players are thrilled when someone brings a spellcaster that focuses on casting utility spells out of combat.

If casters outshining martials in utility is a problem in actual play, I would expect the players of martials to prefer that casters to stick to combat spells. Since I haven't seen that occur, I'm asking if other people have.
You are correct about the complaint I have seen. The "complaint" about casters outshining martials in my experience is baseless in ways that are divorced from reality. The vast majority of the time some edge case where a caster could pull out a spell to trivialize some exploration or social thing the response tends to be "I didn't have that spell, "I could aver a long rest" or similar unless the spell is tiny hut and I've seen a few wizards refuse to take it for obvious reasons related to how it basically relegates them to saying "skip me. I ready an action to cast a cantrip if something gets in with burrow teleport or whatever" mid-rest. martials don't tend to care what spells asters prep unless one of them can be healing spells.
 

ECMO3

Explorer
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?
You said you wanted a class where you do not have to worry about spell slots and concentration. Warlocks have spell slots and a more complex mechanic for their use. Warlocks have concentration spells too.

Bladesong is a "power" or "blessing" that does not require spell slots or concentration. That is what some on this thread claim they want more of.

If you don't like slots, don't use them. Get rituals for all your spells except shield, that way anytime you cast anything you cast it as a ritual and don't need to worry about spell slots. By 5th level you will have enough slots and a high enough AC that you will never run out of slots for shield .... so you no longer have to worry about spell slots. With 23 rituals available (I think), you will eventually have all of them in your book by about 11th level or so. After that just add random spells to your book but never cast the non-rituals (except for shield).

As far as AC a bladesinger in studded will typically have a higher base AC than a warlock in mage armor because they have a higher dexterity which makes up for the 1-point difference at low levels and beats it outright at high levels. In bladesong they have a much higher AC than an armor of shadows bladelock.

So grab your scimitars and go to it .... no concentration or worry about slots required!
 
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Yeah and notice how most published dungeons of mid to high have the "hamstring the caster" section: Teleport doesn't work because reasons, scry doesn't work because reasons, find the path doesn't work because reasons etc.

Not too many published adventures have a "hamstring the martials section." I honestly can't think of any - any out there?
In my experience most all dungeons have walls.. which are remarkably effective at hamstringing martials. One could likely say that most of most dungeons are the "hamstring the martial" section.
 

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