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

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I disagree.

The core issue of the martial/caster gap is that casters are built for long encounter days and therefore have a ton of resources. However nothing stops a caster form not metering out their resources over a long period of time and instead using all their resources in a short period of time.

Nonmagical martials tend to not have resources. They cannot become more effective in shortened days.

This is why half caster martials are rarely problematic. They have resources for longer days, they can burn faster for shorter days, but their abilities are not strong enough nor numerous enough to overwhelm shortened days.
 

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There are several cores of the martial/caster gap. To me the absolute biggest offender is that at level 1 the fighter walks 30ft in a round and swings a sharpened piece of metal hard and fast at someone within arms reach, while at level 20 they walk 30ft in a round and swing a sharpened piece of metal really hard and really fast at someone within arms reach. By contrast at level 1 a wizard can breathe fire a couple of times per day while at level 20 they can turn themselves permanently into an adult red dragon and breathe fire all day.
 

Cruentus

Adventurer
My biggest concern with all of the design decisions is that all of the ‘buff martial’ or ‘bring everyone up to the level of wizards’ only creates a situation of spiraling ‘power’ in an upward trajectory. There is no ceiling to ‘just make things more powerful’ which leads to more spells/abilities/feats/buffs/HP/DPR, with no limit.

On the other hand, very few want to entertain nerfing certain classes or subclasses to bring them back into line, so I feel like we’re on a hamster wheel that will only go in one direction.
 

In a sense more limited and thematically focused casters sounds appealing both aesthetically and gameplay wise. Then again, the mastermind wizard that get to choose the tools needed for the task and that has to go to search scrolls for new spells is very appealing too. 🤷
 

Aldarc

Legend
Then again, the mastermind wizard that get to choose the tools needed for the task and that has to go to search scrolls for new spells is very appealing too. 🤷
Maybe controversly, I think that choosing the right tools needed for the task style gameplay would arguably be better suited for a class like the artificer. The benefit there is that this also would put the versatility on a half-caster chassis rather than a full caster.

I do like the idea of wizards search scrolls for new spells, but I increasingly get the sense that this sort of gameplay is not really what WotC wants or regards as being popular. (IMHO, what's popular is not having to search for the new spells; what's popular is the potential to get all the spells.) I think that's why the wizards get 2 spells of their choice per level. It takes some of that randomization and "prayers that the GM will give me a good magic scroll" out of the game.
 

Maybe controversly, I think that choosing the right tools needed for the task style gameplay would arguably be better suited for a class like the artificer. The benefit there is that this also would put the versatility on a half-caster chassis rather than a full caster.

I do like the idea of wizards search scrolls for new spells, but I increasingly get the sense that this sort of gameplay is not really what WotC wants or regards as being popular. (IMHO, what's popular is not having to search for the new spells; what's popular is the potential to get all the spells.) I think that's why the wizards get 2 spells of their choice per level. It takes some of that randomization and "prayers that the GM will give me a good magic scroll" out of the game.
One thing I've contemplated is that the wizard spell list should be divided into common and rare spells, and you could only choose common spells as your free spells and would need to find rare ones as scrolls.
 

My biggest concern with all of the design decisions is that all of the ‘buff martial’ or ‘bring everyone up to the level of wizards’ only creates a situation of spiraling ‘power’ in an upward trajectory. There is no ceiling to ‘just make things more powerful’ which leads to more spells/abilities/feats/buffs/HP/DPR, with no limit.

On the other hand, very few want to entertain nerfing certain classes or subclasses to bring them back into line, so I feel like we’re on a hamster wheel that will only go in one direction.
You aren't wrong. Look at Robotech (or any Palladium setting, really) and you see armor/damage inflation between each supplement, even if the books are conceptually at the same point in time.

The 5e "bounding box" and limits on concentration were supposed to constrain power-creep and also balance casters. I think it does the former but had the opposite effecton the latter.

In 2e/3e, casters would layer buffs on melees and then stay back where it was safe to throw targeted spells. Those buffs depleted the caster's pool so they had fewer nukes to throw and the melees could be more liberal with power attack and/or less afraid of non-hp special attacks like attribute drains.

In 5e most buffs take concentration so casters don't throw them around willy nilly and the ones that don't need concentration are often only impactful in edge cases. Casters save their concentration for "the good stuff", which results in casters with more spell slots to throw instant spells at baddies. (Effectively power creep via resource offset)

The bounding box does keep Fireball as one of the most efficient nuke spells but new supplements add new spells that cover wider areas, eliminating weak spots in spell lists. (So caster scope creep vs power creep)

Meanwhile melees are trapped by the bounding box with fewer cleave/power attack combos, a lack of magic item standards to create a consistent baseline for item boosts, minimal options to neutralize casters* and melees' scope remain static as they don't have a mechanism for scope creep the way casters do.

* breaking Concentration ignores the fact that the spell probably gave some benefit for the time it was in play.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
It seems to be based on the vast majority of comments in all these martial vs caster threads.

But these threads are in no way, shape, or form representative of players on the whole. This statement is like going to the Annual Purple Convention and being salty about how everyone seems to like purple, and nothing else.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
To me the answer is simple-- stop trying to "solve" the issue for D&D on the whole. Solve any "overpowered Wizard" issue at your own table, because that's the only one that you can control and for which you can be assured of what the actual problems are.

None of US are going to "fix the Wizard". Because none of US can even agree what the problems of the Wizard are, because none of US play the game in exactly the same way to show US where the efficiencies and deficiencies of the martials and casters can be. If (general) you have a really strong player that always plays Wizards, then of course they can and will dominate all facets of the game. But is that truly because of the class, or just because your player is just really, really good? And if that player was playing a Monk, would you be thinking that the Monk was actually overpowered because they knew exactly how and when to stun-lock big bads and make every encounter trivial?

WotC is going to do what WotC is going to do. And there is almost nothing any of US can do about it (other than pass on some opinions when we will fill out the playtest surveys). And when 5E24 comes around and (general) you find that your strongest player at your table is still able to decimate all the others when they play a Wizard... then (general) you needs to figure out how to deal with or work with that player-- not letting them play Wizards anymore, bump up the other classes, etc. etc. OR you need to take it upon yourself to stripmine the Wizard class down to its foundation so that you can get what you want without having to actually have a conversation with said player. (Not exactly the greatest way to go about things, but I do know how reticent some people are with actually talking with their fellow players about issues in their game and would rather just push all the work onto WotC so that they don't have to get their hands dirty.)

The game is not played the same way by any of us. So any supposed broad imbalances are more often than not table-specific and thus any fixes need to come from that specific table only. WotC or the rest of us can't fix the problem, because we just won't ever see it.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
The core issue with the Martial Caster gap is just, the design of casters in dnd-like games, they are classes designed around doing everything on a limited resource, with few other downsides but that, with decent planning or smarts you can just...not care, and be ready for most situations.

I think the analysis of casters is typically done in a hypothetical, cherrypicked way that highly overrates the caster's ability to have the right spell on hand all the time. We tend to do power comparisons of individual encounters, usually solo creatures with a clear vulnerability, where the caster has all their spell slots available, and has already picked and prepared the appropriate spells for that encounter.

We then argue that the spellcaster also will always have the right loadout of utility (or healing, etc) spells, even when we were assuming, merely paragraphs before, that they were loaded for bear with combat spells.
 

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