D&D (2024) The Battle Master Paradigm

Chaosmancer

Legend
So, I know that the fighter survey is done, and it likely won't matter but I was watching the Treantmonk Fighter video (link below) and... I'm a mix between baffled and frustrated about some of the discussion of the Battle Master design. So, I figured I would get it off my chest. Figure many people will disagree with me, but maybe I can at least get people thinking about this differently.


Why is the Battle Master Popular?

So, I don't want to bury the lead too much, but I think there is a point to discuss first. After all, the Battle Master is undeniably popular, so how can I have problems with the design? It likely hit high marks on the survey. Well, I think part of it is that the Battle Master has momentum on its side. Take a look at the Fighter Subclasses, and when they were released.

2014: Battle Master, Eldritch Knight, Champion.

2015: Purple Dragon Knight

2017: Arcane Archer, Cavalier, Samurai

2020: Rune Knight, Psy Warrior

So, when the Battlemaster was released, it was the undisputed best option. The Champion was clearly last place, and the Eldritch knight was just too clunky to meet the gish fantasy, along with the Gish fantasy not being everyone's cup of tea. Purple Dragon Knight didn't do any favors. Arcane Archer was bad. Cavalier was limited, and Samurai was decent, but niche. So, there wasn't any major competition for the Battle Master for anywhere between three and six YEARS. That is a lot of time for everyone to keep repeating "this is the best fighter" and not notice the flaws. I know myself it wasn't until around 2020 that one of the most egregious parts of the Battle Master registered with me.

So, have we always been wrong about the Battlemaster? No, but I think the lack of quality in Fighter subclasses really obscured the problems in the Battlemaster. And that blind-spot persists.


Basic Structure

Okay, so I have an opinion, and there are two major categories to that opinion. And I'm going to start with the biggest issue that plagues the Battlemaster.

Fighter's recieve Five Subclass abilities. Lv 3, Lv 7, Lv 10, lv 15, and lv 18. And I bet many of you know exactly where I am going with this. What are the Battle master abilities?

Lv 3 --> Battlemaster Maneuvers (Pin this for later), Student of War (+1 Skill, +1 Tool)
Lv 7 --> Know your Enemy (this sucks, I'll explain why later)
Lv 10 --> Die step up
Lv 15 --> Relentless (really, really, really good)
Lv 18 --> Die step up

So... what's up with this? Why in the world are TWO of the Battle Master's subclass abilities a basic +1 to a limited resource? People generally agree that a +1 to damage is not a GOOD ability, maybe acceptable at low levels, but as a capstone?! And look to the bard or the Psi Warrior. Both of these have die resources that recharge and can be used for similar abilities to maneuvers, and both get scaling dice FOR FREE. Why does this cost not one, but TWO subclass abilities? Why is this acceptable to people?

Before I get into that, I also want to touch on Know Your Enemy. There is a serious issue with this ability in my opinion, and that is that the fighter can't benefit from it. Right now the ability is a bonus action, once per day, to learn the damage resistances, Immunities, and Vulnerabilities of a creature. So, here is a question, you are a fighter and you use this ability to determine the creature has resistance to fire and vulnerability to lightning. What do you do with this information?

You tell the wizard.

That's it, that's your best use of this ability, because you don't HAVE variable damage types. Sure, MAYBE you are facing a creature that has some vulnerability to B/P/S but not only are those rare, most of them are sub-CR 5, and you get this at level 7.

Well, what if you have a flametongue sword? Then if you have information that the enemy is resistant to fire you can swap weapons, right? Well... no. That'd be stupid of you.

Normal weapon: 1d8+5
Flame Weapon: 1d8+5+1d6 (effective halfing) is still BETTER

Heck, the Flametongue average is 13. Even if you swapped to a Greatsword you will only average 12. It is still better. So you would need to not only use this ability, but also have TWO magical weapons dealing different damage types and the enemy only resist one of them. Now, sure, it is still very useful for the Battlemaster to help the wizard or the druid be more effective... but that also means that this ability is little more than a ribbon. So, we are very potentially looking at the Battlemaster having only TWO subclass abilities that are generally going to be effective.



But Maneuvers Are Really Good

Well... are they? See, this was another thing I noted in Treantmonk's video. It was actually the thing that really got me chewing on this post. He goes through the manuevers, and he talks about how useful they are. In the playtest doc, there are a total of 20 manuevers. At one point he is talking about how Manuever design is poorly balanced, and he lists a number of manuevers he's never seen people take in fifty different builds. Add in his questioning if Trip is obsolete or not, and how many manuevers do you think are on this list?

Eleven.

Over half of all manuevers are in the "I've never seen them taken" camp or otherwise considered a bad choice. Of the Nine left, how many did he have positive things to say about? Four. Precision attack, Menacing Attack, Goading attack (which is a worse version of menacing), and Bait and Switch.

Now, I know. His word isn't law, everyone has their own opinions, but think about this for a moment. We can easily narrow the Battlemaster's ONLY redeeming feature to THREE OPTIONS. Which is everything they learn at 3rd level. Everything after 3rd level is just going down hill. And you are taking entire subclass abilities to simply get a +1 on these manuevers. So... are we really dealing with the peak of Fighter design here? Is this truly THE best option we can aspire to?


Okay, so what do you wanna do about it?

At the end of the day, honestly? My bare minimum is getting actual subclass abilities for levels 10 and 18. I'll accept the crappy level 7 ability, we don't even need to argue about buffing your favorite manuever that is actually under-rated. End of the day, I will accept not having to tell a player that there capstone is to roll a d12 insteand of a d10 when using their limited resource that they can sue for free if they use a d8.

If I was bold?

I'd rebalance manuevers, I'd move Relentless to level 10, and then add level 15 and level 18 abilities, and I have some suggestions from my homebrew. I gave them an ability that allowed them, once per short rest, to allow their allies to move when they roll initiative. Or to have it so enemies cannot have advantage on attacks against them. We could come up with a dozen different things. But I just want something.

And maybe, maybe get people to start wondering if the Battle Master has design issues we can fix.
 

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Pauln6

Hero
Yes. In my experience it's the extra damage on a crit and the extra attack from riposte that get people excited. The riders often just get thrown in as an afterthought. Some players just multiclass after level 5 because nothing interesting is coming and you already picked the manoeuvres you actually intend to use.

Superiority may have opened up new combos that might be fun I guess but again, largely front loaded.

The Purple Dragon Knight should get d6 Superiority Dice and limited access to just the warlord style manoeuvres. Instead of proficiency in persuasion they should get the manoeuvre that allows you to add Superiority Dice to the skill check. I think would make me keener to play one. I played one to level 4, and invested in the feat and fighting style for manoeuvres but it does limit your choices and giving the rogue one extra chance to inflict sneak attack per short rest isn't overly satisfying.

Giving more powerful manoeuvres that cost double the dice would be the fun place to go with battlemasters but that would probably leave all the other subclasses in the dust.
 


Horwath

Legend
There are some valid points. I always felt that the battlemaster was too frontloaded.
yes, the 4d8 extra damage with some effect is sooo front loaded, we should probably wait 16 levels for that just to be sure.

also relentless should be 7th level feature with d6 dice.
 

yes, the 4d8 extra damage with some effect is sooo front loaded, we should probably wait 16 levels for that just to be sure.

also relentless should be 7th level feature with d6 dice.
Do I sense sarcasm here? Maybe you did not read properly or added a few sentences in your head where there were none..

I did not say that it should be nerfed at low levels. But after the 4d8 extra with maneuvers, when you have 1 attack, there is not a lot coming after that. The whole scaling is a bigger selection of equally effective maneuvers and 4d8 scaling to 6d12, when you have 4 attacks. That can be seen as a relative downgrade while you level up.

So if you are not dead set on getting 3 attacks per round, the battlemaster is probably best served to multiclass into a class with better scaling.

So. I hope, that helped you comprehending my last post. Sorry that I did not explain it enough for you to get it right in your head the first time.
 




niklinna

učim hrvatski
Then let's make a simple* ranger to make people play. Lord knows no one else wants to.

*For the imagined new player who is too dumb to add multiple numbers and cannot operate Rage, not for actual new players.
I'm betting you mean "archer". 😉 A ranger would be too complicated! Favored terrains, enemies, so many decisions. (Come to think of it, I'm kinda shocked there isn't an all-in archer subclass for ranger.)

There's never been a D&D version of ranger that truly scratched my itch. Level Up came close, Stonetop hit the mark but I barely got to play it. Dungeon World's looks pretty good too.
 

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