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 .


I thought that was the villain's line.

It seems to me that if everyone is special - ie distinctive and significant - then everyone is still special - ie distinctive and significant.

The sentiment of these two sentences seems to be in contradiction.
What I meant was everyone having a useful specialty doesn't mean they should all be generically the same . For some reason too many gamers these days feel abused if any character is more useful than thier character In any encounter. If everyone can do everything why have classes ?

log in or register to remove this ad


That's not at all a fair characterization of what I said.
I know, I was just teasing. But it's clear to me that, for you and many other, the mechanical difference between a Sorcerer and a Wizard are thematically strong enough to make them feel different, but looking at this comment from later:
What does an adventuring scholar or aristocrat do in combat? What does Lord Green do in combat? What makes what they are doing in combat different from what a fighter does?
You can't see the thematic difference between two warriors with vastly different combat focus. I guess it's fair.

Let me put this another way, if the Fighter and Warlord are to be a single class, I would rather see the WARLORD be the dominant idea, regardless of class name, than the limited 5e Fighter. I think it would help make the Fighter a stronger thematic class if it regained its 'mundane leader of men' theming from the days where it would get a keep and followers. Keep the striker subclasses, and the Eldtrich Knight, but have more room in the core class for support option. What if the Fighter had a basic 5 ft aura as a core class feature that could (as a class feature pick) either make allies within it harder to hit (say, if you're holding a shield) or make enemies within in easier to hit? What if the Fighter had a 'dress wound' ability that lets them make short rest more effective? (i.e. you let X amount of party member maximize the HD they spend) Maybe, at higher level, it can train people to use weapons, like he can grant weapon proficiency to NPCs to train up a militia...

Basically, the 5e Fighter feels like it's designed to be the Champion first, and the Battlemaster or Banneret second, and I'd rather see that be flipped if we can't have a separate Warlord.

And let's leave the 'dumb Fighter' trope behind and give them some skills other than meathead ones and give them some stuff to do with them! You could still play a lunkhead Fighter, but you'd have options not to!

This is the sort of character I don't want to exist in D&D. I am too much an simulationist for this to work for me and I want mechanics to be more directly tied to what's going on the world. Thematically useless but mechanically useful is an unacceptable disconnect to me; I you're thematically useless it means that you're also mechanically useless, because the rules exist to mechanically represent the themes. I played a long time in a group with a warlord (albeit no purely lazy one, they rarely managed to actually hit anyone) and it was a constant source of low-level ludonarrative dissonance. 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.
You don't need to be 'thematically useless', you just need to be useful in DIFFERENT WAYS than the usual "I smash his face/stab his guts/blast his face" standards. Just because a character can't hit hard doesn't mean their in-universe companion wouldn't be able to appreciate their contribution.
One thing I notice on certain RPG forums, that there is a very dedicated group of people who are hardcore 4e fans and seem to think that was the best thing ever. And good for them! But that game design philosophy obviously didn't work for many people. So my question is, if you love 4e, why not just play it then? 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.
It's been explained but for lots of reasons, nobody plays 4e. And I will admit, 4e had cool ideas but it gets unwieldy at high level. Once you get past your second Encounter power you start to have too many things to track... I'm generally fine with 5e, there's just a few things I wish it did better (support characters are REALLY underwhelming. The Cleric is boring. Martials are too limited).

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.

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.
I completely disagree with your assessment.

What I don't understand is why you feel the Warlock's Mechanics don't make sense for a Warlock? Pact Bonuses + Invocations + Strong Cantrips + 'Lesser Spellcasting' seems to mechanically fit that concept just fine to me.

What I don't understand is why you feel Sorcerer Mechanics don't make sense for a Sorcerer? Full Spellcasting + Metamagic seems to mechanically fit the concept of innately magical caster to me.

I think the problem is that we are dealing with magical fantasy concepts that can be justified any way we want to justify them. Which is to say - I can see the sorcerer mechanically functioning differently or the warlock or the wizard, etc. But I wouldn't say any particular implementation makes more sense. I think there might be some implementations that make no sense - like forcing innately magical casters into a class that requires a spell book to cast.

Perhaps you dislike these things for a different reason than you are expressing you do - that's pretty common for people actually.

I agree with Longinus, the Sorcerer is really bland and uninteresting.

The other thing I find people liked about warlords was that they tended to be more powerful than many classes. When built properly they could cause more damage than other attack based classes on an attack - As they could always do the highest party members basic attack + int mod in damage. I think some of what some people liked about them was that OPness.

That OPness however was totally dependant on the party. It wasn't that the Warlord themselves were better than everybody, they just made the whole PARTY better. A Warlord on their own weren't as good as ,say, a Ranger, but a Warlord and a Ranger were (often) better than two Rangers. The Warlord wasn't OP, they were a force multiplier.

I personally liked the martial healer/inspiring take on warlords in 4e. But it seems that view of Warlords isn't a very popular one - and it's a pity as it's one I think there could be some room to further develop for 5e as there's an actual theme there. Leadery Martial. But Warlords always get burdened with specific 4e implementations as there's no specific concept involved around the mechanics people liked and so its just an emerging playstyle based solely on 4e mechanics that people fell in love with.
I too like the CHA one better, and I liked the STR/CHA Cleric in 4e that got dropped like a hot rock passed the PHB, but the INT Warlord is one that really got people excited for a smart Martial character that didn't dump INT. When making my own Warlord class I had way more ideas for CHA subclasses to the point I had to stop myself :p
Furthermore, sorcerer mechanics are pretty damn meh and sorcerer points are awkward.
I feel like the Sorcerer using magic should have more of an impact on their body. They're using power from within and I think it should impact them if they put too much strain on their magic. Sorcerers should be more like Magical Berserker Barbarian, able to trade exhaustion (or HD) for stronger effect. They should be able to control raw magical energy and either shoot it as a basic blasting attack or enhance their body without a specific 'spell' (just some class feature).

I also really like the play test idea I heard about where the more they used sorcery points the more their ancestry manifested (like, they got more Dragons).

Also, Wild Magic is garbage. It should have had a push your luck mechanic where you can choose to gain a benefit at the cost of rolling on the random table instead of depending on the DM.

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?
The Warlord is basically 4e's mascot. I can totally see them deciding not to work it into 5e (and really, if they were including it from the ground up they would TOTALLY have been able to make it work mechanically, regardless of what naysayers like Asisreo think. Just keeping Healing Surges would have given the Warlord tons to do) for fear it would trigger the grognard rage.

And I admit, as someone who liked 4e, it would feel validating to see a 5e Warlord. It would be like the designers saying "your taste were VALID." instead of feeling like they're going out of their way to act like 4e never existed (despite all the stolen elements) and that we were somehow totally wrong for liking it...

Which doesn’t work because the 5e paradigm of every class needing to be roughly equals at combat.
This was one of the criticisms of 4e. Yet most fighters could trash most warlords one on one in melee and everyone knew it. But because the warlord was a warlord they could contribute other things than walking up to the enemy and smacking them round the head.
Fluff isn't important when it comes to class design because players can easily and freely change that fluff. Wizards in one world could be ancient sages that are rarely seen in the world or they could be within wizarding academies in every major city. Either way, a player can decide their wizard lives in the country and just had a knack for understanding the arcane.
But when your fluff is not fit for purpose and your mechanics are not fit for purpose why do you think what you are offering is anything other than a demonstration that you don't understand the appeal to the class?
And that's just abiding by the overall theme of wizards. A character could easily be a Wizard that never studies. Their spellbook could easily be poems that they recite when casting spells. Suddenly, they've gained the same fluff as bards.
And they are still casting spells with all that implies. What you are saying is that two different types of spellcasters with overlapping spell lists are pretty similar. Which, duh, yes.

The warlord is not a spellcaster by default any more than the rogue, monk, barbarian, or fighter are. Some may cast spells, just as there are eldritch knights and arcane tricksters. But warlording is fundamentally not about casting spells and any attempt to say "casters exist and you can do a lot with magic therefore you have a warlord" is a failure.
There's a reason why a bonus to Wisdom saves aren't weighed differently than bonuses to Strength saves.
And that reason is mostly because monster balancing is fiddly enough already.

Edit: And I don't need to add anything to the sorcerer discussion. A warlock-type chassis with short rest spells and magical stuff they can Just Do would feel more like the sorcerer fluff than the current metamagic "has more control over their spells than a wizard but no versatility". You could also add far more twists to warlock invocations to make them feel like dark bargains; I like that they feel different from wizards but there should be far more double edged ones.


A magical feature and a nonmagical feature, balance-wise, isn't very distinct. Most creatures don't have access to Counterspell or Dispel Magic and the majority of features that would be affected by them would be magical anyways. In essence, they're counter-feature and dispel feature just with another name. The few things that are not affected are mechanically the same as spells with tags "this cannot be dispelled" or not having verbal/somatic components.

Its all theme and minute mechanical differences that can be easily excised. Giving a martial "martial spellcasting: your spells cannot be dispelled, do not count as magical, and require no components" is exactly the same as giving this martial a whole new subsystem, yet it would only make it more difficult.
Might as well make everything MAGIC and Spells then! The game is already 75% Spell per volume so might as well go all in... Right?


As long as i get to be the frog
Classes can contribute to combat in different ways in 5e. For example, I've run casters who focused on buffing/debuffing and let the warriors handle the damage. It didn't break the game. In fact, IMO this is the ideal way to play a 5e caster (blaster casters are fine, but generally not as good as leader/controller casters in 5e, with the possible exception of the EB lock).
No different way was offered for the hypothetical noble/scholar classes.


Morkus from Orkus
This is the sort of character I don't want to exist in D&D. I am too much an simulationist for this to work for me and I want mechanics to be more directly tied to what's going on the world. Thematically useless but mechanically useful is an unacceptable disconnect to me; I you're thematically useless it means that you're also mechanically useless, because the rules exist to mechanically represent the themes. I played a long time in a group with a warlord (albeit no purely lazy one, they rarely managed to actually hit anyone) and it was a constant source of low-level ludonarrative dissonance. 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.
Then don't use it in your game. I certainly won't. Just like I tell people who don't like psionics and want to keep people who do like it from having it in D&D. Just ignore it. If it's not in your personal home game, it doesn't affect you. If/when Warlords come out I'm going to practice what I preach and they won't be in my game.


I'm certainly not opposed to playing 4e as is, but I also think it needs a minor overhaul. Not a complete one, but a tune-up and polish that cleans it up a bit. Kind of like how 3e received a tune-up, polish, and a fresh paint job through Pathfinder, I think that 4e could use a similar treatment. Nothing drastic. However, the lack of an OGL prevents retroclones or the ability of enthusiast publishers/designers/fans to pick up 4e's torch like Pathfinder did for 3e or OSR was able to do with B/X and AD&D. It would be nice, for example, to see a "New School Essentials" that did for 4e what Old School Essentials did for B/X.
As an added point on this matter, I think that our memories can be self-deceptive about past editions.

I get the impression, for example, that how we think of 3e as a whole and its quality also has a lot to do with Pathfinder 1. But Pathfinder 1 was not a direct port of 3.5e. PF1 made a fair share of revisions to 3e, because it was Jason Bulmahn's house rules that he had pitched to Paizo. I know there are people who do play 3.0 and 3.5, but I feel that if people were to play 3e, that Pathfinder 1 would be the likely go-to candidate for most 3e play. It's generally treated as the most well-realized form of 3e.

Likewise, although Moldvay and Holmes B/X are good in their own right, the OSR B/X-based games have also shaped how we view the original iterations in hindsight. Part of the reason why we do view them more positively is because OSR went back and touched these games up. Some OSR games are direct retroclones, but others made house-rules and changes of their own. Also, there has been a tremendous amount of improvement in terms of modern writing, layout, polish, and presentation for B/X as a result of the OSR movement. OSE is a much cleaner presentation of B/X than the original. And I think that @Sacrosanct's Chromatic Dragons project will likely be a fantastic contribution to OSR in the same vein.

I would love to see what creatives could do with 4e if they also had likewise been handed the keys to the kingdom.

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.
How about the Warlord is the only class that could allow HD recovery in-combat?

Remove ads