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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%

  • Total voters
    206
  • Poll closed .

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I think a few minor tweaks to the skill system would have been beneficial:

- Codify 'Expertise' as a thing, and just have it be a flat bonus. Rogues get a bunch of them, the Champion gets Expertise in Athletics or Acrobatics, the Wizard gets Expertise in Arcana, some subclass could give it out, etc. It'd be pretty useful. I dunno if the bonus would be a flat 2 or a flat 3 (like it was in 4e)... Heck, you could even replace the Archery Fighting style as 'Expertise in X weapons with a specific property' or something like that. So you could have a true Swordmaster who has better attacks than anybody else while using a Longsword and stuff.
As a flat bonus, it would probably be +5. The Observant feat is only worth half of an ASI and not only gives +5 to passive perception and investigation, arguable the best skills in the game, but also perfect lip reading if you understand the language. Is a class ability worth half an ASI? I would think so.
- Better skill use examples in the PHB. Maybe help get people to stop declaring what skills they want to roll for before they explain what they want to do?
This is already the case. RAW says that the players just describe what their character is doing. The DM calls for a check if one is necessary.
- Better emphasis on the idea that Stats and Skills aren't always linked and that sometimes your DM will call for a different roll like Strength Intimidate or Intelligence Insight. Give ACTUAL examples of how that would work. Really lean into the concept for more than a fleeting paragraph ya know?
I agree with this.
- Not skill related, but mention that more tools than those listed in the PHB can exist. Emphasize that 'tool proficiency' can sub for almost any profession or craft you can think of. Then introduce a few setting specific ones as time goes on. Like if there's a setting where you need to use a special kind of compass and coded map to navigate parts of it, etc.
I agree with this as well.
 

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Undrave

Hero
This is already the case. RAW says that the players just describe what their character is doing. The DM calls for a check if one is necessary.
I know, but I feel like it's easy to skip all that in the skill section.

And speaking of the book, Feats really needed their own chapter to be easier to find in the book >.> but I could complain a LOT more about the PHB layout.
 

Undrave

Hero
As a flat bonus, it would probably be +5. The Observant feat is only worth half of an ASI and not only gives +5 to passive perception and investigation, arguable the best skills in the game, but also perfect lip reading if you understand the language. Is a class ability worth half an ASI? I would think so.
+5 feels really high at first level... With a stat at +3 under the current system it nets your +7, but with yours it becomes +10. Compared to +5 for the non-experts.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
+5 feels really high at first level... With a stat at +3 under the current system it nets your +7, but with yours it becomes +10. Compared to +5 for the non-experts.
Yea. I would have done +3 flat bonus personally. Proficiency is still the primary scaling. Reliable talent is the higher level ability to help ensure success.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
+5 feels really high at first level... With a stat at +3 under the current system it nets your +7, but with yours it becomes +10. Compared to +5 for the non-experts.
At first level it is a bit high, but it evens out pretty quickly. +3 is good, but it's not even as good as half a feat, and I think class abilities should be at LEAST half a feat. Maybe expertise can be +2 and advantage.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
At first level it is a bit high, but it evens out pretty quickly. +3 is good, but it's not even as good as half a feat, and I think class abilities should be at LEAST half a feat. Maybe expertise can be +2 and advantage.
Rogues get sneak attack, thieves cant and 2 expertise skills. That’s not half a feat worth of stuff. It’s a ton more.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Rogues get sneak attack, thieves cant and 2 expertise skills. That’s not half a feat worth of stuff. It’s a ton more.
Not from one single ability they don't. That's three abilities. Sneak Attack(worth a full feat), Thieve's Cant(worthless, I mean worth less than half a feat), and Expertise with 2 skills(worth less than half a feat until you hit 14th level, then worth half a feat).

I think each ability should be half a feat or better.
 

Minigiant

Legend
They give mental ability score access to the blatantly supernatural but make the physical ability scores jump through hoops and give what fantasy physical abilities do have to the mental abilities.

Or in laymans term's, the mind can get access to 5+ types of magic and psionics whereas the best the body can do is rage and manuevers. Very few features key off STR, DEX, and CON and the ones that do almost all have scaling that doesn't match the mental abilities's scaling. D&D doesn't have CON based warlocking or bloodmagic anymore. And there is no DEX based gesture magic nor demigod feats of STR/DEX/CON in the base game.

That's what broke 3e and what 4e attempted to fix. 5e attempted to solve it by killing all the combat buffs so you'd have to be a warrior already to benefit.
 

It’s more that mental skills apply to a diverse set of problems. Social ones tend to as well. These kinds of skills can help in any situation including physical situations.

The physical skills apply to very specific situations. Jumping/running/climbing etc. These are useful tools to have. But they tend to only solve very specific problems.
The problem with this claim is that the most reliable way to get over a physical barrier (fly) is based on mental abilities for almost all characters. So for that matter is building walls fast. If you want to solve significant physical challenges in D&D you want mental not physical abilities. Even when it comes to running a wizard can outsprint a fighter thanks to Expeditious Retreat.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The problem with this claim is that the most reliable way to get over a physical barrier (fly) is based on mental abilities for almost all characters. So for that matter is building walls fast. If you want to solve significant physical challenges in D&D you want mental not physical abilities. Even when it comes to running a wizard can outsprint a fighter thanks to Expeditious Retreat.
And 9 times out of 10 it's an obscene waste of resources to cast Fly and use up a 3rd level slot when the Fighter can just climb up and lower a rope.

I really want to play in these games where Wizards have so many spell slots that they can just casually toss around Fly spells to go over barriers, and Disguise Self and Invisibility spells just to sneak around, and have so many different spells memorized, that they can solve any situation that they come across.
 

And 9 times out of 10 it's an obscene waste of resources to cast Fly and use up a 3rd level slot when the Fighter can just climb up and lower a rope.

I really want to play in these games where Wizards have so many spell slots that they can just casually toss around Fly spells to go over barriers, and Disguise Self and Invisibility spells just to sneak around, and have so many different spells memorized, that they can solve any situation that they come across.
The problem saying this is that the wizard solves both the mental stuff and the hard physical stuff. The fighter only gets the easy.

You don't use Invisibility to sneak around - you use Pass Without Trace. It's an absurd spell.
 

Minigiant

Legend
And 9 times out of 10 it's an obscene waste of resources to cast Fly and use up a 3rd level slot when the Fighter can just climb up and lower a rope.

I really want to play in these games where Wizards have so many spell slots that they can just casually toss around Fly spells to go over barriers, and Disguise Self and Invisibility spells just to sneak around, and have so many different spells memorized, that they can solve any situation that they come across.

It's called not being in a dungeon or on a schedule.

The D&D spell slot system breaks down if the DM puts any of the adventure outside a dungeon-like environment and doesn't put time constraints on the action. D&D really doesn't teach or train DMs to run stuff outside of the dungeon or chase scene and this is where all the chaos happens. So you get a lot of learning by doing and this is where the madness begins.

It continues if the party gets high enough level that low level spells lose combat effectiveness. Ironically it's kinda worse in 5e because even though the spells are nerfed, the low level spells don't scale and are only useful for utility.
 

And if you're an Arcane Trickster even though you don't have that many spell slots you really don't need those spell slots for combat.

Basically the main thing I used spell slots for in combat were casting Shield (which is of less benefit for a Rogue anyway due to Uncanny Dodge) and the occasional Fog Cloud or Misty Step (which again is still good, but less important for a Rogue than another class because they have lot's of utility anyway).
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
They give mental ability score access to the blatantly supernatural but make the physical ability scores jump through hoops and give what fantasy physical abilities do have to the mental abilities.
When magic is in the game usually it's either tied to a mental stat or to a magic stat. 50% of games are designed that way. The other 50% has a separate magic power stat.

Physical stated characters don't have to jump through hoops to do anything - unless you are trying to count not casting spells as jumping through hoops...

Or in laymans term's, the mind can get access to 5+ types of magic and psionics whereas the best the body can do is rage and manuevers. Very few features key off STR, DEX, and CON and the ones that do almost all have scaling that doesn't match the mental abilities's scaling. D&D doesn't have CON based warlocking or bloodmagic anymore. And there is no DEX based gesture magic nor demigod feats of STR/DEX/CON in the base game.
  • If a caster keyed off Con, things would be worse not better. Those casters would be even better tanks than fighters.
  • Keying off mental stats has been a thing for forever (and isn't isolated to just D&D) - for better or worse it's a thing.
  • Making Dex be better doesn't help the fighter or Barbarian. Generally people feel the dex based classes get enough utility.
  • Demigod feats goes back to people in general not actually wanting to play demigod fighters. They want more grounded fighters.

I really am starting to think that most on your side don't have a clue what would actually make for a better game and maybe not even what you actually want.
 

Look, to my mind the issue is basically this.

Casters have more things they can leverage. There's been a push back against the idea that characters should be looking at their character sheet for options in a pinch and should instead be (what I don't know? Sitting back and waiting for the muse to strike with creative inspiration?).

My experience is players tend to like things they can leverage. D&D has always been the most popular game and D&D has always been about looking at things for leverage. There's an OSR argument that this was not often the case in the early game, but to my mind this is nonsense. It's just that in the early game the main things you leverage were your equipment list: flasks of oil, ten foot poles, mirrors, bags of flour, caltrops etc. If you were stuck you looked at your equipment list to see if inspiration struck. (And of course your spell list if you had one).

Now this aspect of the game, and the kind of playstyle where such equipment choices matter has gone out of fashion, but it leaves a gap. With many classes the gap has been filled by magic and in some cases class features even those that are called 'ribbons' (which is a design that really reveals a certain design cluelessness and that WotC never really stopped thinking of D&D has just a tactical squad combat game).

For example this, according to Mike Mearls, is apparently a 'ribbon'.

Infiltration Expertise⁠​

Starting at 9th level, you can unfailingly create false identities for yourself. You must spend seven days and 25 gp to establish the History, profession, and affiliations for an identity. You can’t establish an identity that belongs to someone else. For example, you might acquire appropriate clothing, letters of introduction⁠, and official-looking certification to establish yourself as a member of a Trading house from a remote city so you can insinuate yourself into the company of other wealthy merchants.

Thereafter, if you adopt the new identity as a disguise, other creatures believe you to be that person until given an obvious reason not to.
No. It's an ability you can leverage. Once you have it you can use it to do stuff. Things that can shape the whole game.

Now is it necessary for this ability to exist to do this kind of thing? No. But ready-to-handness matters in D&D.

Consider the following situations for old school play:
  • I have a bag of flour written on my equipment list.
  • The equipment list has 'bag of flour' written on it.
  • Flour presumably exists in the world as bread exists.

Now, which player, assuming they've never heard of this trick before, is more likely to come up with the idea of revealing an invisible monster by throwing flour at them?

I think the answer is self-evident.

Casters simply have more things to leverage and more things to make a plan with. OSR misconceptions aside, things to leverage are aids to creativity not blockers.

Now add to this that skills in 5e are pretty bad and unreliable. They're not really meant to be your main articlces of leverage. This is by design, even if not necessarily articulated. Because D&D is not the game where you just do things. It's the game where you leverage the resources that you have, be they spells or equipment (Or magic items).
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
It's called not being in a dungeon or on a schedule.

The D&D spell slot system breaks down if the DM puts any of the adventure outside a dungeon-like environment and doesn't put time constraints on the action. D&D really doesn't teach or train DMs to run stuff outside of the dungeon or chase scene and this is where all the chaos happens. So you get a lot of learning by doing and this is where the madness begins.

It continues if the party gets high enough level that low level spells lose combat effectiveness. Ironically it's kinda worse in 5e because even though the spells are nerfed, the low level spells don't scale and are only useful for utility.
That's why you have to move to a once per week long rest. That way you can still do the adventuring day and not have to rush lots of encounters.

Most low level utility spells are weak. Invisibility hardly matters if you can't sneak well to begin with. Creatures are going to know where you are anyway, because they can hear you. Knock alerts everyone within a football field of you that you just cast the spell. Charm Person is weak. Comprehend Languages is one way, so you can't hold a dialogue. Feather Fall is highly situational. Identify is redundant with just resting a bit with the item. Jump is highly situational and I've never seen anyone actually take it. And so on. Low level utility is just not great.
 




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