D&D 5E The core issue of the martial/caster gap is just the fundamental design of d20 fantasy casters.

Tony Vargas

Legend
And if none of that makes sense to add, for whatever reason, would you just arbitrarily shrink the spell list in order to serve some misguided sense of symmetry? Because it isn’t balance. 100 spells could be just as powerful as the current number, if those spells are the 100 most powerful spells. The number of spells isn’t a balance issue. It’s just symmetry. It’s no different than making the “ardent” and “battle mind” so that the psionic power source had a leader and a defender, in 4e.* Design symmetry is the enemy of good design in TTRPGs. You don’t need there to be neutral outsider descended people, just because there are tieflings and aasimar. Having fiendish blood and having celestial/angelic blood are both concepts that exist outside of D&D, that D&D is modeling. If you have a concept for fire people, you don’t have to force water people into the game to stand opposite them. You don’t need to have 8 martial classes just because the phb has 8 Spellcasting classes, and you don’t need more feats or other singular options just because you add more spells. Balance is important (up to a point), symmetry is not.
Symmetry has been a big part of D&D through most of its history, even as balance hasn't been. The Great Wheel, for instance, is symmetry on a cosmic scale. 3e's "team alignment" spells and magic items are, like, peak symmetry, living in the same edition as profound imbalance.
4e, ironically, broke traditional symmetries quite a bit, again, with the cosmology being a big, hard to miss example.

Some symmetry certainly shouldn't go away, since it avoids needless complexity. Like WotC has never looked back to different exp progressions for every class or different level limits for every race, even as hard as it was looking back to design 5e. It doesn't hurt 5e that the full slot casters have such similar spell progressions, and can easily combine to the MC progression. If each were as different from eachother as they are from the Warlock, would it have helped the game, or just made it more complicated? Roles, with classes of different concepts being able to fill a given role are a positive, too, since roles help differentiate PCs in cooperative play in ways other than just making them identical - roles, are even an asymmetry, in that sense. If no one wanted to play a religious character in your 1e AD&D game, you were kinda screwed, because only the Cleric had adequate healing at 1st level (the Druid's kicked in at 2nd). In 2e, Cleric or Druid could handle the responsibility. In Cleric, Druid, maybe Bard or Paladin, and definitely WoCLW. 5e, Cleric, Bard, Druid, or Paladin all work, tho healing in combat is bad. 4e, Cleric, Warlord, Bard, Shaman, Artificer, and Ardent all work, with Paladin a strong showing, as well - if someone wanted to play a non-religious warrior or a mage or whatever, but you "needed a Cleric," there was a class for that.
 

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ECMO3

Hero
I was into trying to defend the 3.x fighter design back in the a day, and I did the math on possible fighters. It was, IIRC (and the oughts are not my prime decade for recall), thousands maybe tens of thousands. The 5e fighter has significantly less choice.

It is a lot more than tens of thousands. a 5E fighter has millions of combinations in ASIs or feats alone through 12th level and on paper 3E had more.

IME the 3E fighter was far more restrictive than the 5E fighter because the lack of bounded accuracy punished you severely for not optimizing and there were so many prerequisites for certain feats. This meant you had very few viable choices because if you did not plan for a specific feat you would not meet its requirements.

In 5E I don't have to decide on a feat or ASI until I reach that level, and when I do I can take almost anything and even if it is a downright poor mechanical decision it will not compromise my character.

If I had to boil it down based on my experience; 3E had more choices at 1st level, and those choices included the feats you would later add at higher levels. Those decisions were generally made at 1st level with what feat you took then and how you distributed your skill points and it was pretty difficult to substantially deviate after that.
 

Tony Vargas

Legend
It is a lot more than tens of thousands. a 5E fighter has millions of combinations in ASIs or feats alone through 12th level and on paper 3E had more.
Well, you've stepped it down from trillions, so that's progress.

There were a lot of possible builds for the 3e fighter, there were a few variations each on battlefield control, archery, charge/leap attack, and mounted combat (tho, really, Paladin did it better), that were viable.
5e, there are fewer possible builds, and whether any are viable ... 5e can be very easy.🤷‍♂️
IME the 3E fighter was far more restrictive than the 5E fighter because the lack of bounded accuracy punished you severely for not optimizing and there were so many prerequisites for certain feats. This meant you had very few viable choices because if you did not plan for a specific feat you would not meet its requirements.
The 5e fighter is easier to build, precisely because it gives you less choice.
If I had to boil it down based on my experience; 3E had more choices at 1st level, and those choices included the feats you would later add at higher levels.
Cute. Yes, you could plan your 1-20 build, and it was a good idea. The 3e fighter was not the training wheels option the Champion is supposed to be.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Symmetry has been a big part of D&D through most of its history, even as balance hasn't been. The Great Wheel, for instance, is symmetry on a cosmic scale. 3e's "team alignment" spells and magic items are, like, peak symmetry, living in the same edition as profound imbalance.
4e, ironically, broke traditional symmetries quite a bit, again, with the cosmology being a big, hard to miss example.
Sure, 4e prioritized organic world building and having everything be usable.
Some symmetry certainly shouldn't go away, since it avoids needless complexity. Like WotC has never looked back to different exp progressions for every class or different level limits for every race, even as hard as it was looking back to design 5e. It doesn't hurt 5e that the full slot casters have such similar spell progressions, and can easily combine to the MC progression. If each were as different from eachother as they are from the Warlock, would it have helped the game, or just made it more complicated? Roles, with classes of different concepts being able to fill a given role are a positive, too, since roles help differentiate PCs in cooperative play in ways other than just making them identical - roles, are even an asymmetry, in that sense. If no one wanted to play a religious character in your 1e AD&D game, you were kinda screwed, because only the Cleric had adequate healing at 1st level (the Druid's kicked in at 2nd). In 2e, Cleric or Druid could handle the responsibility. In Cleric, Druid, maybe Bard or Paladin, and definitely WoCLW. 5e, Cleric, Bard, Druid, or Paladin all work, tho healing in combat is bad. 4e, Cleric, Warlord, Bard, Shaman, Artificer, and Ardent all work, with Paladin a strong showing, as well - if someone wanted to play a non-religious warrior or a mage or whatever, but you "needed a Cleric," there was a class for that.
I agree with most of this
 

Hussar

Legend
I don't entirely agree - there are subclasses that give you plenty to do. Battlemaster turns sometimes seem to go on forever, as do monks, though the latter don't always accomplish that much.
Again, not what I'm talking about.

We are talking about the choices you make when you level up your character. How long it takes someone to take a turn in play is a separate issue, and, again, entirely dependent on far more factors than simply the rules of the game.

The point being, your non-caster character has at best 1 choice point at a given level when leveling up, and frequently has zero. A 7th level fighter gets no new options. An 11th level rogue turning 12th level, has no actual choices to make (other than feat which isn't class dependent). A 12th level rogue gets whatever a 12th level rogue gets according to the proscribed advancement of that class.

EVERY caster gets a minimum of 2 new spells at 12th level. By that point, you're choosing two entirely new abilities for your character from a list of somewhere in the neighbourhood of 100 options. And, as a caster, you get that choice EVERY SINGLE LEVEL. Never minding anything else you get from class. The class stuff generally isn't something you can choose. You get this or that ability and there's not a whole lot of choosing going on, typically.

But, you are going to get 2 completely new abilities, chosen from a palette of dozens, then more than a hundred, options, every single level.

A non-caster isn't even in the same zip code.
 

ECMO3

Hero
Cute. Yes, you could plan your 1-20 build, and it was a good idea. The 3e fighter was not the training wheels option the Champion is supposed to be.

It is not that you "could" plan your 1-20 build, it is that you pretty much had to plan it, because if you didn't you would not qualify most feats when you gained a level. This whole philosphy is disconnected from the idea of story-driven characters.

For example, I believe the Fighter had about 50 different fighter feats, but only 10 of those or so had no prerequisites at all. Over 30 of them required another feat as a prerequisite.

For example, if I build an average, run of the mill Fighter S16, D16, C14, W12, I10 CH8 with Weapon Focus and Blind Fighting and I decide at 2nd level that I want to get Whirlwind attack and Cleave, what level will I finally be able to have those two feats, and what ASIs and feats will I have to give up going forward ... if I decide this at 5th level, I think I am locked out of it completely when I am only 25% of the way done the game. And this is with a figher that gets bonus feats every other level.

I am guessing that total there were about 150 feats in official 3E, and the majority had prerequisites.

I think there are about 90 total feats in 5E, and most of them do not have prerequisites. I think there are about 25 feats that require a prerequisite in 5E and most of those are race-specific feats.

So yes, when you are talking about feats you can actually take at a given level, 3.5E does not have way more choices. What it actually has is way more feats that a given character can't choose to take.
 
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Pedantic

Legend
It is not that you "could" plan your 1-20 build, it is that you pretty much had to plan it, because if you didn't you would not qualify most feats when you gained a level.

For example, I believe the Fighter had about 50 different fighter feats, but only 10 of those or so had no prerequisites at all. Over 30 of them required another feat as a prerequisite. For example, if I build an average, run of the mill Fighter S16, D16, C14, W12, I10 CH8 and I decide at 2nd level that I want to get Whirwind attack, what level will I finally be able to finally get it and what ASIs and feats will I have to give up going forward ... if I decide this at 5th level I am locked out of it completely.

I am guessing that total there were about 150 feats in official 3E, and the majority had prerequisites.
You're off by an order of magnitude for 3.5. If you include Dragon, try closer to 3000 feats, depending how exactly you count 3.0 vs. 3.5 sources, and even without that you're still over a thousand.
 

ECMO3

Hero
A 7th level fighter gets no new options. An 11th level rogue turning 12th level, has no actual choices to make (other than feat which isn't class dependent).

This is not true some 7th level fighters do get new options. Arcane Archers can choose a new Arcane Shot, Rune Knights choose a new rune, and Eldritch Knights get a new spell at 7th level

EVERY caster gets a minimum of 2 new spells at 12th level.

This is just plain false!

Sorcerers, Clerics, Druids, Bards, Paladins, Rangers, Warlocks, Eldrich Knights, Arcane Tricksters and Artificers get no new spells at 12th level. ZERO, NADA, ZILCH!

The ONLY caster that gets any new spells at 12th level is the Wizard!


By that point, you're choosing two entirely new abilities for your character .... And, as a caster, you get that choice EVERY SINGLE LEVEL.

Except this is completely untrue and made up!


A non-caster isn't even in the same zip code.

As a point of fact the 12th level fighter is in the same zipcode as most casters when it comes to choices at 12th level, while Barbarians, Rogues and Monks are not far behind.
 
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ECMO3

Hero
You're off by an order of magnitude for 3.5. If you include Dragon, try closer to 3000 feats, depending how exactly you count 3.0 vs. 3.5 sources, and even without that you're still over a thousand.
Ok, but how many of those thousand could the example character above actually take?
 

Pedantic

Legend
Ok, but how many of those thousand could the example character above actually take?
That is the sort of data analysis I am paid for in my day job. Broadly, your point stands, with the caveat that is not necessarily so much a dearth of options, so much as how niche and pointless so many of those options are.
 

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