D&D 5E The Fighter/Martial Problem (In Depth Ponderings)


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ECMO3

Hero
I have to ask. In what world can this character be even competent in combat?

In any RAW 5E game they will be competent in combat.

You have 10 CON, which means you'll only have HP equal to a standard wizard of the same level with 14 CON.

Constitution is the most overated ability in the game. A good AC beats a good Con every day of the week and Constitution is nearly useless out of combat. If you want a balanced charachter it is the worst stat to invest in. If you are worried about hit points, buy healing potions and take a feat like Gift of the Metallic Dragon. That feat will do more to keep you alive than 4 points of constitution will.

I have played a ton of fighters in 5E and only 2 have had higher than a 14 Con. One had extremely high rolls, the other was a point buy Rune Knight who I purposely started with a 16 Con only because I wanted it for the saves on her abilities (as opposed to the skills like the above example).

The vast majority of fighters I have played have either a 10 or a 12 Constitution and occasionally a 14. I've played a fighter with a 12 Con from level 1 to level 20.


I have had multiple PCs die (including 2 Wizards), but I have never had a fighter PC I was playing die.

You mention a Wizard with a 14 Con. I have also played a lot of Wizards, but the highest constitution I have ever had on a Wizard in 5E is a 12. I've played a Bladesinger Wizard with a 10 Con from level 1 to level 20 as well (full disclosure - she had 2 levels of Death Cleric so 18/2 Wizard/Cleric). Here is her character sheet:


Probably the biggest reason I don't play Barbarians, is that they actually do need a good Constitution to be decent, which results in a crappier character overall.

You have 16 DEX and the only feat you listed that can increase your DEX ability is Skill Expert, so you're falling behind on attack rolls as enemy AC grows.

A fighter with a 16 attack stat works just fine all the way to 20th level. Skill expert is used at 1st level either on Dex or on Charisma in the example I gave. In any case this character has a 16 dex until level 12 at least, and if you want to keep pushing the social or exploration pillars probably to level 20.

Cloud Rune is nice, but that's only one use between rests.

You would be getting it for the advantage on Slight of Hand and Deception which are unlimited uses. That is why you are getting the Rune. The combat reaction is a nice addition, but really a ribbon for this build.


Fire Rune is laughable. With 10 CON, the enemy only needs to save with STR against 8 + Proficiency bonus to ignore the effects.

Fire Rune gives expertise on all tool checks (note I mistakenly put advantage above). You might try to use the Rune in combat since it is free with no action cost, but with a 10 constitution, unless you are fighting something very weak it is probably going to fail.

The expertise on tool checks is on all the time and that is why you are getting Fire Rune on this build.

You want to know why your fighters suck at the non-combat pillars? Its because people purposely build them to suck in the non-combat pillars. And yes, a fighter that prioritizes combat stats, especially a rune knight with save DCs on Con, will be better in combat. But realize that is the character you are building when you do that. You are purposely making a character that sucks at most of the game, and then you wonder why your fighter sucks at most of the game.

The example character above is AWESOME at the social pillar, very good at the exploration pillar and still good in combat. You could build a different Rune Knigt that would be awesome in combat and mediocre at the other two pillars. Or you could build a third example that is more balanced.
 
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Hell0W0rld

Explorer
The Rune Knight build you've provided basically sacrifices every subclass feature in exchange for out of combat utility. That's not a sacrifice any caster has to make, because they get good features for both combat and non-combat pillars.

Up to level 12, that build is solely relying on Extra Attack, Action Surge (1/sr) and Cloud Rune (1/sr) to carry you through combats. That's not competent, that's terrible.

EDIT: To clarify, I think the Rune Knight is a fine subclass, one of the few that actually gives the fighter some options outside of combat. However, it does not come close to rivaling what a caster can pull off, not even if they go all in on utility as your build is supposed to do and give up any semblance of combat effectiveness.
 
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Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
The would not be more complex, they just don't have the same story/wow elements that spells have and I think for that reason most people don't want them.

My 2nd level spell was Hold Person, now I am third level and can throw a huge ball of fire is cool.

A martial that could stun an oppenent at 3rd level and then at 5th can damage everyone within 30 feet with an attack action is largely the same mechanic and no more complex than the spells, but I don't think most players want or care about this at their table. I don't think it ads much to the story or character for most players.



There are some, but I think it is a relatively small minority of players overall. It is probably at least a plurality of players who post on forums like this though.



That statement works both ways, and I would argue WOTC is going to cater to the majority and the other side can homebrew if they can find a group of players that see things their way.
How can you be so comfortable believing that your opinion is the majority? What makes your experience more accurate than someone else's.
 

ECMO3

Hero
The Rune Knight build you've provided basically sacrifices every subclass feature in exchange for out of combat utility. That's not a sacrifice any caster has to make, because they get good features for both combat and non-combat pillars.

It is a sacrifice casters have to make because they only get so many spells.

I also do not think you could build an 8th level full caster as good at both the social and exploration pillars as that character in the example. Consider with a 20 casting stat you have 13 spells to prepare, that is it. Maybe you could do a Bard that good, but I would have to really think about it a while.

You can do an 8th level Ranger that is better than that, but again you are going to sacrifice Constitution to do it and push points into Wisdom and Charisma.

Up to level 12, that build is solely relying on Extra Attack, Action Surge (1/sr) and Cloud Rune (1/sr) to carry you through combats.
No, you are missing some important things. Most notably Giants Might 4 times a day and Runic Shield 4 times a day. You also have Second Wind 1/sr and a Fighting Style and they are both significant.

Finally fire Rune (which you suck at) and Frost Rune (which sucks as a combat ability in general). Those are not doing much for you, but they are also not nothing. Even as weak as Fire Rune is on an 11DC it is still a minimum of 6d6 damage per day with 3 short rests and a small chance to restrain and do more damage. As such Fire Rune alone is probably as good in combat as everything the Champion has from its subclass at 8th level.

With Giants Might, Runic Shield, Cloud Rune and your weak Runes, you are already better in combat than several other fighter subclasses (Champion, PDK), competing with a few more subclasses (Battlemaster and Samaurai) and beating most Monks. And all of those are playable classes/subclasses ...... and you are doing in a build purposely optimized away from combat.

That's not competent, that's terrible.

It is not terrible. It is competent and still better than many other martials.
 

Hell0W0rld

Explorer
I also do not think you could build an 8th level full caster as good at both the social and exploration pillars as that character in the example. Consider with a 20 casting stat you have 13 spells to prepare, that is it. Maybe you could do a Bard that good, but I would have to really think about it a while.

Sure, let me have a crack at it. A level 8 wizard has 4-3-3-2 leveled slots. Add to that Arcane Recovery for four more levels' worth of spells.

Cantrips: Ray of Frost, Friends, Minor Illusion
1st level: Shield, Absorb Elements
2nd level: Web, Enhance Ability
3rd level: Hypnotic Pattern, Fly, Fireball
4th level: Polymorph, Dimension Door

You have enough slots to cast at least one Concentration spell above 1st level in a standard adventuring day (6-8 fights), and still weave in defensive first level spells as needed. Fly and Dimension Door are great for exploration. Cast Friends and Enhance Ability for social shenanigans. Minor Illusion for both pillars, why not?

And I haven't even mentioned rituals like Find Familiar and Tiny Hut...
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Almost everyone I have personally played with and talked with this about. Not everyone, but the vast majority.
I don't know.

Most of the 3PPs I've seen are making their big marketing ideas either a new class, a total overpowered remake of a class (usually the fighter), or 5+ niche, overpowered, or setting subclasses.

The no new classes group tend to be people who only want traditional D&D tropes and can't think of things they feel are missing in it.
 

ECMO3

Hero
Sure, let me have a crack at it. A level 8 wizard has 4-3-3-2 leveled slots. Add to that Arcane Recovery for four more levels' worth of spells.

Cantrips: Ray of Frost, Friends, Minor Illusion
1st level: Shield, Absorb Elements
2nd level: Web, Enhance Ability
3rd level: Hypnotic Pattern, Fly, Fireball
4th level: Polymorph, Dimension Door

You are not nearly as good in social encounters as the Rune Knight above. It is not even close. You are closer on the exploration pillar if you have the 1st level rituals.

You did not mention how you would distribute ability scores and what feats and proficiencies you would get, but you can't have as many as the RK above because you do not have as many feats. Also if you invested points into Wisdom and Charisma your AC is truely awful, even with shield.

As an aside, you also don't have very good offensive combat spells unless your DM plays on easy mode. You have Polymorph and Web, but the rest of your offensive spells are pretty weak and you don't have a lot of options. Go up against something like a young red dragon or a Bone Devil for example and you are not going to be nearly useless in combat .... as a Wizard!

You have enough slots to cast at least one Concentration spell above 1st level in a standard adventuring day (6-8 fights), and still weave in defensive first level spells as needed. Fly and Dimension Door are great for exploration.

Fly and Dimension door bring some capability for exploration, being both very limited in number of times a day and situational.

The character I put above has a +10 to stealth, a +5 on finding traps through intelligence or +8 through Wisdom or alternatively he can make a +5 perception check with advantage. He has a +10 on disarming traps and +8 or +5 with advantage on many survival checks. You don't have any of that, or really any spells to use for those things.

Moreover an 8th level Wizard who uses fly twice a day and Dimension Door twice a day out of combat is not going to be equal to a fighter in combat for 6 fights a day, especially if you invested in Wisdom and Charisma and have correspondingly very low AC.

You also should have put invisibility in there if you wanted to buff the exploration pillar. Find Familiar helps with scouting, and honestly buffs this better than either of the leveled spells you mention, but it is still not nearly as effective as someone actually good/awesome at the necessary skills.

Cast Friends and Enhance Ability for social shenanigans. Minor Illusion for both pillars, why not?

With a 16 Charisma and proficiencies, you would be good at the social pillar, but still not nearly as good as the character I posted and you don't have a 16 if you invested into intelligence. You would be a lot better with Suggestion and Charm Person on your spell list but still short of the character I posted because the target gets a save on those spells.

Friends is highly situational, because it automatically turns the people you use it on hostile when it ends. RAW, that is specifically hostile, not just that they know you used it on them. It is also only useful against creatures not hostile, so it doesn't work for example if you are trying to convince an enemy to surrender. It is useful at times. However even when it is useful you are getting advantage using it on ONE person. You can't use friends to help you social your way past two guards because it only works on one target.

You can use Eagles splendor to get advantage, but that takes both a spell slot and your concentration. Further unless you have invested in Charisma, Charisma skill proficiencies and expertise you are still well behind the RK even when burning a spell slot and using Eagles Splendor.

The character I built gets advantage on Deception and Intimidation ALL THE TIME and has very high scores to boot. On Deception +10 and Intimidation +7 WITH advantage and he can use that advantage on groups or in situations that he can't afford to automatically turn the people he is talking to hostile or when they are enemies. You will need a 16 Charisma, and expertise in Deception AND get advantage and that is just to match the RK I posted in that one highly situational check. That RK above also has a +7 Persuasion.

Performance is the ability low one at +3, but that is why I mentioned the instrument as a tool so I could get a +9 if I had the opportunity to use an instrument.

He also has a +5 insight which is good and you have nothing for that (Detect Thoughts would work but it is not on your list).

And I haven't even mentioned rituals like Find Familiar and Tiny Hut...

What does Tiny Hut do for the social or exploration pillars?
 
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