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D&D 5E Spellcasters and Balance in 5e: A Poll

Should spellcasters be as effective as martial characters in combat?

  • 1. Yes, all classes should be evenly balanced for combat at each level.

    Votes: 11 5.3%
  • 2. Yes, spellcasters should be as effective as martial characters in combat, but in a different way

    Votes: 111 53.9%
  • 3. No, martial characters should be superior in combat.

    Votes: 49 23.8%
  • 4. No, spellcasters should be superior in combat.

    Votes: 8 3.9%
  • 5. If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends?

    Votes: 27 13.1%

  • Poll closed .

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
This is the sort of character I don't want to exist in D&D.
Okay. It's easy enough to not permit them when you run, and to ask fellow players not to go for it or (if necessary) bow out. Its existence in the game doesn't deny you your fun, any more than the existence of gritty rest rules denies me mine.

I get that it works for some people, (and I don't care to argue why, it goes nowhere) but those are the same small group (too small for WotC) who love 4e in general.
[Citation needed.] Right up until the end of the public playtest (technically slightly thereafter), they were talking about things like Martial Healing and the like.

Also: so much for 5e being the "big tent" edition, the edition that was supposed to give everyone enough of what they wanted that they could comfortably play if it wasn't perfectly the same. Big enough tent for everyone....except the people who aren't numerous enough to care about.

So my question is, if you love 4e, why not just play it then?
When the opportunity arises, I do. The opportunity doesn't arise much, at all, for a lot of reasons.

Also, forgive me for the bitter chuckles at hearing this now, so many years down the line, when back during the playtest people were saying, "Just wait! 4e fans will get their stuff too, they're just focusing on the basics first!" or--and I kid you not--"give it two or three years after launch, and then if they still haven't done anything for you, you can validly say 5e doesn't work for you."

Like sure, if you're like me who liked some small parts of it but still feel that overall 5e is a massive improvement that wouldn't make sense, but it seems that certain people feel that 5e was just a step backwards and 4e was simply better. So play 4e! People play Basic and AD&D still too.
At this point, 99.99% of the games I see online are 5e or PF1e. 4e games just don't get offered. And I've tried pulling a game together by fishing for a DM. It hasn't worked. I would LOVE to play more 4e. The opportunities simply aren't there.

So I'm stuck trying to advocate for even a little bit of table scraps from the game that was supposed to welcome every D&D fan to the table of brotherhood. The game that I've been repeatedly told "there isn't anything to dislike about," that's a perfect middle ground for all D&D fans, etc. etc. etc. At this point, I'm beginning to see why so many make the argument like you did, that 4e fans must be a vanishingly small minory; it helps assuage any thoughts about having kicked us out of the so-called "big tent."

And on preview @Asisreo 's claim that the warlord has no design space mechanically is utterly risible.
100% agreed, though not sure how productive it will be to discuss it.

Those features not only kinda already exist, they also aren't very good.
As they currently "kinda...exist" in 5e, I completely agree that they aren't very good. That's a big part of why I'd like an actual Warlord, given the time and love and whole-class "size" to stretch out and make those mechanics, y'know, not suck. Because we know they CAN be good, 4e demonstrated that. Unless you're trying to tell me that it's literally impossible to make such mechanics reasonably good in 5e, which is gonna be a pretty tough claim to justify, this simply reads as a reason to create the Warlord--so the fans who want this stuff can actually, y'know, HAVE it instead of dealing with crappy table-scraps and castoffs.
 

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FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
This is again about comparing things. Warlock mechanic sorta make sense for warlock and sorcerer mechanics would make some sense for sorcerer if warlock wouldn't exist as a comparison. I definitely feel warlock mechanics would make more sense for sorcerer than the sorcerer mechanics do.
You keep asserting that but never really explain why.

Furthermore, sorcerer mechanics are pretty damn meh and sorcerer points are awkward.
I just don't see how one justifies pact boons/invocations making sense for a sorcerer. Those make about as much sense for a Sorcerer as a Wizard's spellbook IMO.

It really has no purpose now that all casters work more or less like sorcerers originally used to.
To me the purpose of the sorcerer was to let me play a full caster like a wizard that achieved his power innately. The 3e differentiation of this was to do away with the spell book which also did away with needing to memorize spells at the start of the day. Essentially - a non-prepared caster.

That piece of identity is still present in 5e - it's just the wizard doesn't need to prepare his spells individually by slot anymore so it seems like a less drastic difference in play. However, the sorcerer's innate magic concept is strengthened in other ways. Primarily via subclass features - but also via sorcery points and metamagic (though metamagic could have been implemented better IMO).

Furthermore, I feel warlock themes eat design space from other classes.
I think warlock is a bit overbroad of a class concept. It probably could have used some separation. Pact to make you a strong martial character vs a pact to make you a strong spell caster. Those are related by different enough concepts IMO.

Why is a Cthulhu cultist not a cleric of Cthulhu,
He could be! Anything can happen with NPC's.

why is an arcane caster who studies creepy books not a wizard?
He can be! There's nothing in that concept that precludes that concept from working as a wizard (or even lore bard, or even sorcerer).

I just feel that warlock exists conceptually as generic creepy caster, and I don't think that should be a thing.
They exist as the pact caster. That can be creepy as pacts have a bit of a connation of being with evil entities. But it's not necessarily so.

So sorcerer has solid and district enough fluff and warlock has decent mechanics that will fit the sorcerer themes better than the actual sorcerer mechanics.
I think this ends up being the true reason. You dislike sorcerer mechanics as not being different enough and dislike warlock fluff. I disagree, but now I get why you want these classes combined.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Sure. This is not exact science, this is about nebulous things like feels and themes and archetypes. I'm sure other people see things differently.
I agree. I think that the part of the problem rests in how D&D wants to be everyone's generic fantasy, but everyone's cognitive sense of generic fantasy is different. For example, 3-5e D&D wants warlocks to be Eldritch Blast spammers and vestigial patrons. I want my warlocks/sorcerers to be John Constantine, Faust, and Goetics (see Monte Cook's Invisible Sun) who are summoning spirits, angels, and fiends with rituals to bargain for magical favors.

I sometimes feel that classes in D&D are trying to do too much conceptually and mechanically. This is one reason why, for example, that I liked roles and power sources in 4e. Some people find these things too narrow for classes, but I conversely found that they opened a lot of conceptual and mechanical room, some of which we never really saw expressed well in D&D until this point (again IMHO). For example, the druid in 3e and 5e is a massive collection of nature mage abilities. People have wanted a shaman class, but others will point to the pre-existing Druid as covering that space. But in 4e, by contrast, the Druid could be the Primal Controller and the Shaman could be the Primal Leader. These two classes now had conceptual design space between them. Same for the conceptual and mechanical design space between the Cleric and the Druid. Not only different roles, but also different power sources. There was none of the talk we hear now: e.g., "Why do we have Nature Clerics and Druids?"

And I think that the Warlord was also that huge breath of fresh air for me. I never knew how much I wanted or needed this class archetype in D&D until I saw in 4e, but that was because 4e provided mechanical and conceptual space for a Martial Leader. I remember reading this and thinking "OMG! I can play a non-magical, tactically-minded support character who isn't a minstrel or a priest? Thanks be to 4E!" But 5E has said that there's no space for it, but the Warlord was also a lightning rod of anti-4e talking points during the D&D Next playtesting, so was there no space for it or was it intentionally boxed out?

Over time, I have come to accept that there may not be space in 5e for the Warlord, but that also may mean that there's not much space in 5e for me. That is why I'm less invested in 5e than I was, but that's also because other games are willing to pick up the slack. 13th Age has the Captain. Shadow of the Demon Lord (and Weird Wizard) has the Commander. Fantasy AGE will release the new Envoy class for its updated Core Rulebook. Stonetop has the Marshall.

And somehow this became much longer and less relevant to the original point.

It seems like so much of class design warfare (let’s call it) turns out to be a gatekeeping proxy war for something other than what the person is explicitly saying (the meaning of HP for example…or caster supremacy…or the identity/trajectory of a beloved class/archetype that is affected…or genre tropes vs process sim…or MY CHARACTER MY STUFF OK).
Not always, but they definitely can be.
 

At this point, 99.99% of the games I see online are 5e or PF1e. 4e games just don't get offered. And I've tried pulling a game together by fishing for a DM. It hasn't worked. I would LOVE to play more 4e. The opportunities simply aren't there.
As someone who's just started their second new 4e campaign this year (although the first broke due to timezone issues) there are three fairly major reasons in my experience:
  1. H4ters gonna h4te. It's just getting to the point where it's possible to have a conversation about 4e in an open forum without some jerk coming along and spouting fatuous nonsense about shouting hands back on or how it's a boardgame and everything feels the same. This wasn't the case before 2020
  2. 4e really requires the character builder - and to get that takes low level piracy. The WotC ninjas didn't steal the 3.5 rulebooks when 4e came out - but the WotC sysadmins have turned off the character builder and even Silverlight has gone. So you need a pirated and hacked copy of the old one, which is slightly shady in its own right. And a few months ago a Windows update broke the hacked version so we all needed new patches.
  3. For licensing reasons the online virtual tabletops don't support 4e in the way they do a lot of other games - and 4e is fairly battlemap centric.
So I'm stuck trying to advocate for even a little bit of table scraps from the game that was supposed to welcome every D&D fan to the table of brotherhood. The game that I've been repeatedly told "there isn't anything to dislike about," that's a perfect middle ground for all D&D fans, etc. etc. etc. At this point, I'm beginning to see why so many make the argument like you did, that 4e fans must be a vanishingly small minory; it helps assuage any thoughts about having kicked us out of the so-called "big tent."
There's a lot more 4e than is immediately obvious in 5e - and that 5e is on a lightly modified 4e engine is itself pretty obvious. Indeed a big part of the reason I'd say that 5e is vastly thematically more interesting than anything pre-4e is that it kept a lot of the 4e fluff in everything from cantrips being at will so wizards don't need crossbows to specialist wizards being better at casting the same spells in the areas they specialise in rather than merely getting an extra spell to rituals being a thing. Sorcerer fluff is pure 4e (but then 3e sorcerers were "they might be descended from dragons I guess?"). Paladin fluff is pure 4e. Warlock fluff is pure 4e. Rogues and monks alike owe a lot to 4e (with 4e being the first edition either of them weren't just bad); Cunning Action is an elegant consolidation of a couple of 4e utility powers for minor action trickery (Fast Hands and Lock Tap) with about half the rogue attack powers that let you either hide, jump out of hiding, or shift. Barbarians are again mostly 4e rather than the variant fighter who gets upset for a few minor bonuses of 3.X.

We were going to always lose the battlemap focus for balancing back towards Theatre of the Mind and the inherent balance with martials being as cool as casters and NADs back to saving throws. But the only unnecessary losses 4e took by my estimation were the warlord class, skill challenges, and strong monster design and CR tools. And separated spell mechanics may have come back but aren't really as dominant and Vancian Casting remains dead.
 



Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Wait, scholars should get extra attack, light armor, shields, martial weapons, inspiration, magic?

What you described sounds rather like a valor or swords bard. Is it just the music thing that is the problem?

And maybe the bigger problem is you are starting with mechanics instead of a fairly clear conception of what the class 'is'.
Magic is an option. Not a base of the class.

And I already explained the concept: the adventuring scholar or aristocrat.

A major problem with D&D is that the non-magical experts are all thieving, backstabbing murderhobos who know the secret language of the Thieves Guild.

I want to play Lord Green: a highly educated man know knows a little bit of fencing.
 

It should be clear that the Warlord has absolutely no design space mechanically. Spellcasting is just a feature that makes it easier to add complexity by letting a class access the already myriad 500+ features in an list. Mechanically, the difference between a spell and a nonmagical feature is basically bunk.
Coming back to this, this is an absolute counter-factual statement. Spellcasting is a specific subset of literal magic and interacts with things that only affect magic (notably counterspell and dispel magic) in set and defined ways. There are also little things like spell components/focuses. The idea that there is no mechanical difference in 5e between a spell and a non-magical feature is pure bunk. And it's one of the changes 5e made to revert some of 4e.
There's already 3 commander classes in the game: The Bard, the Paladin, and the Sorcerer. Each are naturally charismatic, have features to bolster other characters on the battlefield, can heal, can control the overarching battlefield, and are more resilient than most other spellcasters.
And all of them are highly magical and do a lot (arguably almost all) of their thing through pre-packaged spells which are explicitly magical. They all get literally dozens of spells.
I'm not saying you absolutely can't have this class. I'm not a gatekeeper and you really don't have to try to convince me. But if you want your Warlord, it will be in direct competition with one of the 3 aforementioned classes in mechanical design and you'd have to either change the already existing class to fit the Warlord or change your concept of Warlord altogether.
Mysteriously and miraculously all three of those classes existed in 4e and the warlord still had plenty of design space. And only one of those classes is more in the warlord's space than it was in 4e (the Sorcerer now having the divine variant).
 

Asisreo

Patron Badass
As they currently "kinda...exist" in 5e, I completely agree that they aren't very good. That's a big part of why I'd like an actual Warlord, given the time and love and whole-class "size" to stretch out and make those mechanics, y'know, not suck. Because we know they CAN be good, 4e demonstrated that. Unless you're trying to tell me that it's literally impossible to make such mechanics reasonably good in 5e, which is gonna be a pretty tough claim to justify, this simply reads as a reason to create the Warlord--so the fans who want this stuff can actually, y'know, HAVE it instead of dealing with crappy table-scraps and castoffs.
4e is a completely separate system, though. Mechanical design in one aspect cannot automatically and accurately transfer to this edition.

Putting aside the powers system, there's also 5e's bounded accuracy and a stricter action economy.

While I can see that these mechanics would be different, they aren't distinct. So Warlord will just fall as just another support class that does the same thing as other classes differently.

Putting it another way:

Paladins don't just swing swords and cast spells. They're unique because while they support, they have a myriad of features that bolster their allies while they are around them.

Sorcerers don't just cast arcane spells. They're unique because they have a more granular control over their resources while being able to modify their spells.

Bards don't just support and cast spells, they're unique because they have access to a spell list that emphasizes "jack-of-all-trade" styles. Having healing spells that divine classes specialize in and having arcane spells that wizards/sorcerers specialize in (teleportation/control/utility).

The question is: What is the Warlord's identity? "Better Battlemaster" isn't a good identity because its entirely based on a different class.

Warlord's identity, to me, should be something no other class can lay claim to, at least mechanically. It shouldn't feel like another class but better/worse.

How about this, then?​


Warlord has the ability to allow classes to take instantaneous short/long rests along with itself. Every long rest, it can use an action to let it and creatures it chooses within 100ft of it to feel the effects of a short rest. It can scale based off Charisma/Wisdom or just statically like a barbarian's Rage feature.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
4e is a completely separate system, though. Mechanical design in one aspect cannot automatically and accurately transfer to this edition.

Putting aside the powers system, there's also 5e's bounded accuracy and a stricter action economy.

While I can see that these mechanics would be different, they aren't distinct. So Warlord will just fall as just another support class that does the same thing as other classes differently.

Putting it another way:

Paladins don't just swing swords and cast spells. They're unique because while they support, they have a myriad of features that bolster their allies while they are around them.

Sorcerers don't just cast arcane spells. They're unique because they have a more granular control over their resources while being able to modify their spells.

Bards don't just support and cast spells, they're unique because they have access to a spell list that emphasizes "jack-of-all-trade" styles. Having healing spells that divine classes specialize in and having arcane spells that wizards/sorcerers specialize in (teleportation/control/utility).

The question is: What is the Warlord's identity? "Better Battlemaster" isn't a good identity because its entirely based on a different class.

Warlord's identity, to me, should be something no other class can lay claim to, at least mechanically. It shouldn't feel like another class but better/worse.

How about this, then?

Warlord has the ability to allow classes to take instantaneous short/long rests along with itself. Every long rest, it can use an action to let it and creatures it chooses within 100ft of it to feel the effects of a short rest. It can scale based off Charisma/Wisdom or just statically like a barbarian's Rage feature.
I like that mechanic but I think we are jumping to mechanics when the problem is that no one has a clear vision of what a warlord is conceptually (or rather everyone has their own separate ideas about what a warlord is) and that’s translating into impossible to implement mechanics as those concepts require different things and potentially the lack of different things.
 

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