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

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
I've never seen a situation where the player had any more control over spells than skills in person or streaming. The DM always has final say on what a spell does or does not do. About the only gray area is around illusions, but the adjudication is similar to skills.
The GM always does have the final say, but when dealing with a spell that says "use a spell slot and this (exact effect) occurs", most GM's will default to letting it work (unless the player is trying to do something outlandish)...in my experience.

Further, when attempting to make a skill check or checks to perform a task, it's also been my experience that GM's are very conservative about the the time required, whether multiple checks are required, etc.., assuming the task can be done at all. And the main benefit of spells is the time required is listed in the spell description.

It can take considerable time to set up a camp, as an example, especially at night, or in adverse conditions. Ability checks might be involved. OTOH, Tiny Hut can take as little as 1 minute (if using a spell slot) or 10 if used as a ritual. A GM could, of course, say that uninterrupted casting for that length of time is made more difficult, but the base time frame is set, without having to look up on line or draw on personal experience from camping on how long this should take.
 

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Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
A lot of the draw for new martial and skill classes is to have a character where the defining aspects are agreed upon between the GM/DM and player ahead of time.

The guy wants the swashbuckler subclass, duelist class, or fencer aspect to be sure they know how the Top Concept of their character works.

Why would someone in the 5e design team heavily push Brawling over and over? Because he or she wanted either control or consistency or knowledge of how Brawling works and advances before he commits to it.

The D&D class/subclass/race/subrace/feat/subfeat mill runs on etching out an area of weapons,skills,or magic and adding definitions on it.
 

The GM always does have the final say, but when dealing with a spell that says "use a spell slot and this (exact effect) occurs", most GM's will default to letting it work (unless the player is trying to do something outlandish)...in my experience.

Further, when attempting to make a skill check or checks to perform a task, it's also been my experience that GM's are very conservative about the the time required, whether multiple checks are required, etc.., assuming the task can be done at all. And the main benefit of spells is the time required is listed in the spell description.

It can take considerable time to set up a camp, as an example, especially at night, or in adverse conditions. Ability checks might be involved. OTOH, Tiny Hut can take as little as 1 minute (if using a spell slot) or 10 if used as a ritual. A GM could, of course, say that uninterrupted casting for that length of time is made more difficult, but the base time frame is set, without having to look up on line or draw on personal experience from camping on how long this should take.
@Oofta never has issues making rulings that wreck class balance. So one solution is that he makes a thread where DMs who have trouble making balanced rulings can come to him for advice on situations in their games!
 

ECMO3

Hero
I think what you're demonstrating with this character is that:
a) If you put 4 feats in to Skill improvement instead of anything else, you'll be good at the skills pillar of the game. You could pick any other class, pick up the same Feats (sans 1 for fighter) and be in nearly the same boat.

No that is absolutely not true because the advantage on 4 skills (5 at 10th level) and the expertise on four tools comes from the Rune Knight subclass explicitly, not from the feats.

For example take an Arcane Archer and do that same background and exact same feats and here is the differences between these two:

AA has no proficiency at all in Smiths Tools and the Rune Knight has expertise in this.
AA has proficiency in Thieves Tools RK has expertise in Thieves Tools
AA has proficiency in Cartogrpahpers tools, RK has expertise in Cartographers Tools
AA has proficiency in an instrument, RK has expertise in an instrument
AA has no Advantage in Deception checks like the RK does
AA has no Advantage in Intimidatation checks like the RK does
AA has no Advantage in Animal Handling checks like the RK does
AA has no advantage in Slight of Hand checks like the RK does

AA has one more regular proficiency in Arcana or Nature (however the Rune Knight above gets expertise in many Nature Checks through Cartographers tools and will have advantage on Arcana checks at 10th level).
AA has either Druidcraft or Prestigitation Cantrips

The other subclasses you posted are similar. 1 extra skill and maybe 1 expertise and losing advantage on 4 skills (5 at 10th level) and losing expertise on 4 tools, and potentially losing a skill proficiency

In the social and exploration pillars, the other subclasses you posted would actually be roughly equivalent to the Wizard you posted earlier.


I think when people are talking about 'a class being good at skills' its in the context of 'while also doing what the class would naturally want to do anyway'. We say a Sorcerer is good at social skills because they naturally want to max their charisma. We wouldn't say a sorcerer is good at Nature checks because they can technically dump CHA, pump INT and choose Skill Expert.

But there is a huge difference between being awesome at the social pillar (like the RK I posted) and able to "only really contribute" to the combat pillar. My post was a specific reply to someone who claimed that the class could not contribute. What I posted was a build that is dominant.

I could have put a 14 in Charisma that took no feats at all and I would still be "good" at the social and exploration pillar because of the advantage and the expertise. I would certainly be able to "contribute" while being awesome in combat as a fighter.

The advantage is something that comes with the Rune Knight subclass. Slight of Hand and Deception advantage for exampel come with Cloud Rune, which is a pretty powerful combat Rune in its own right. Those things are part of the subclass design. The build I posted above specifically and purposely plays on these things which come from the subclass.

Moreover the example above did not dump Dexterity. I had a 16 Dexterity. I think Sorcerer example is a poor one, because even if you took feats like the RK did you would not be as good. Even with a 20 Charisma you would not even be as good at the social pillar alone unless you really drove your spell selections for that specifically (Charm Person, Suggestion, Detect Thoughts etc). Would you be "able to contribute"? Sure you would.

Rune Knight seems like a clear standout here. You couldn't make the same claims about other fighter subclasses (unless you're feat dumping again).

Sure, but this seems to be different than what I thought you were saying earlier.

The Rune Knight is available to anyone who wants to play a fighter and it is one of the best platforms for a skill monkey. RK along with the Fey Wanderer Ranger, Soul Knife Rogue and Scout Rogue are the top skill Monkey subclasses in the entire game. Those 4 subclasses can dominate the social and exploration pillars if you build towards that purposely and do it better than any others can do while also remaining viable in combat.

Moreover the Rune Knight is really good in combat as well.

If you want to choose a different subclass then sure you will not be as good (in any pillar probably), but it is not like the fighter does not offer a platform to do this.



I generally think its a very well put together Subclass; but the giant/magic flavour is too strong for me. I wish some of the non-magical Fighter Subclasses had the same versatility. (also. I hadn't realised just how many magic flavoured fighters there were. Dammit WOTC, why can't you make a good non-magical fighter?)

I don't think people really want a non-magic flavored fighter that can do "great things". People I play with love the flavor of Echo Knight and Rune Knight.

A subclass that did those things without being about Giants, or about a phantom going around but scored the same kind of damage, skill and mobility bonuses would not be as popular I don't think.

c) I wouldn't say its a particularly competent combat build though. Attacking twice with a Scimitar + Duelling you're about 20% behind a 'baseline' Eldritch Blast warlock, or 45% behind a more typical GWM/PAM build.

Well a Scimitar is not the best finesse weapon. If you look at a Rapier and Dueling you are doing 12-26 damage with your stick plus 1d6 when using Giant's might. A baseline EB Warlock with a 20 Charisma and agonizing blast is doing 12-30 which is about 10% better. That is not including the Fire Rune.

PAM/GWM is difficult to rate because you are using your bonus action and AC comes into play. If you consider giants might, 16 AC, 4 round combats and 6 combats a day with 2 short rests, my guess is GWM/PAM will come out about 25% higher. Shorter combats, higher AC, fewer combats or more short rests will tilt that difference further towards the skill build and away from the GWM/PAM. I will do the math on this tomorrow perhaps, I need to go play in about 10 minutes.

Edit here is the math:
8th level RK with a 20 Strength GWM/PAM against a 16 AC:
Base attack damage per attack action: 17.2
Bonus action damage per bonus action attack: 7.125
GM damage on turn it is activated: 2.24
GM damage on turn with a bonus action: 2.744
GM damage on a turn with a bonus action and action surge: 3.2

In 24 rounds of combat this character has:
27 attack actions --> 492.754
18 bonus action attacks --> 137.7
3 rounds with GM and no bonus --> 6.72
3 rounds GM with action surge --> 9.68
6 rounds with GM and a bonus --> 16.5
Total daily damage --> 625.55

8th level RK with 18 Strength Dueling and Rapier against 16 AC:

Base damage with attack action: 13.05
GM damage base: 2.94
GM damage on turn with action surge: 3.41

In 24 rounds of combat this character has:
27 attack actions --> 352.35
9 rounds GM --> 26.4
3 GM action surge --> 10.23
Total daily damage --> 388.98

So the dueling guy is down 38%, which is more than I expected, but still quite fine damage. This does not consider the Fire Rune damage.
 
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Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Supporter
@Oofta never has issues making rulings that wreck class balance. So one solution is that he makes a thread where DMs who have trouble making balanced rulings can come to him for advice on situations in their games!
Mod Note:

You made the post personal AND you tagged the person you were ragging?


1701310212715.gif


Just stop doing stuff like this. PLEASE.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Yeah, I get what they were going for with the skill focus. Like you, I take issue with the assumption that fighters are usually made with combat in mind because players don't want to engage on the other pillars of play.

However effective a skill monkey is, it still can't match the reality warping ability of magic. Non-magical classes already fall behind casters in terms of flexibility and narrative agency. No reason they need to give up combat effectiveness just to have more interactivity with the world beyond killing things.
*I'm kicking myself for doing this but I've seen other games handle magic and skill monkeys much more balanced. Stars Without Number is one good example (and I'm sure it's fantasy cousin Worlds Without Number - which I haven't played is similar). Of course it has a much flatter progression overall and the magic while useful tends to be more limited in effects and especially for what a single character can do with magic.

Probably not the direction to take D&D - despite me loving the game, but it does speak to a path of balancing skill monkeys and magic.
 

Hell0W0rld

Explorer
From what I remember, the WWN mages were also far more restricted in the number of spells they get per day. They didn't have access to scaling cantrips either. It's a design more suited for deadlier, OSR-style games which I don't see being what the majority of modern D&D gamers want.

One big flaw with 5e's design is how reliable spells are compared to skills. You can try to evade notice, or just cast the Invisibility spell and simply be unseen for the price of a 2nd level spell slot. At higher levels, you're going to keep accumulating spell slots too, which means you can expend your higher level slots for combat and still have a vast number of consistent utility options using your lower level slots.

Something interesting to explore might be to give casters a fixed number of spell slots, but increase the slot level with character progression instead of just giving them new slots. 13th Age's wizard does something similar, though the total number of slots still increase. Low level casters wouldn't be starved for spells anymore, while high level casters won't be able to cast willy-nilly.
 
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FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
No, those are not the same things. In most cases the DM establishes the former and only in situations of rules failure do they handle the latter. It is wrong and unhelpful to conflate the two, or there would be no meaningful difference between skills and spells to begin with, as declarative techniques wouldn't have any more ultimate agency, regardless of whether you jumped or cast Levitate.

I agree that D&D DM's establish the fictional context of the check, though I would note it's not typically unilateral - players are usually given large latitude in framing their action against the fictional context the DM has already established. You probably agree here as well so don't think I'm suggesting otherwise.

However, after the players action has been committed to, the DM does determine the consequences of failure and the benefits of success. Often the players framing makes it clear what success should look like, ex: 'I want to jump over this obstacle' and thus success is he jumps over the obstacle. Failure is usually a bit more fluid, but still the potential options are typically obvious - 'you fall into the obstacle', or 'you almost fall in and are now holding on by the ledge'. i'd note here that this isn't DM story hour/gm decides or anything similar, where he can make up whatever consequence he wants, they still must revolve around the tables established fiction and/or fiction as established in his notes. That said, the more complex the task the player wants to accomplish, the less clear success and failure become. Social tasks tend to fall into this category, and exploration related tasks can go either way. Stealth is one of the more complex tasks associated with a single skill. It's in these areas, social and stealth that you most see the DM being able to decide what success and failure of the check looks like - but even here, it's still derived from the fiction, the DM's notes, and/or extrapolation - along with the described player action, which is still a far cry from anything resembling DM story hour/gm decides or anything similar.
 
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FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
No that is absolutely not true because the advantage on 4 skills (5 at 10th level) and the expertise on four tools comes from the Rune Knight subclass explicitly, not from the feats.

For example take an Arcane Archer and do that same background and exact same feats and here is the differences between these two:

AA has no proficiency at all in Smiths Tools and the Rune Knight has expertise in this.
AA has proficiency in Thieves Tools RK has expertise in Thieves Tools
AA has proficiency in Cartogrpahpers tools, RK has expertise in Cartographers Tools
AA has proficiency in an instrument, RK has expertise in an instrument
AA has no Advantage in Deception checks like the RK does
AA has no Advantage in Intimidatation checks like the RK does
AA has no Advantage in Animal Handling checks like the RK does
AA has no advantage in Slight of Hand checks like the RK does

AA has one more regular proficiency in Arcana or Nature (however the Rune Knight above gets expertise in many Nature Checks through Cartographers tools and will have advantage on Arcana checks at 10th level).
AA has either Druidcraft or Prestigitation Cantrips

The other subclasses you posted are similar. 1 extra skill and maybe 1 expertise and losing advantage on 4 skills (5 at 10th level) and losing expertise on 4 tools, and potentially losing a skill proficiency

In the social and exploration pillars, the other subclasses you posted would actually be roughly equivalent to the Wizard you posted earlier.




But there is a huge difference between being awesome at the social pillar (like the RK I posted) and able to "only really contribute" to the combat pillar. My post was a specific reply to someone who claimed that the class could not contribute. What I posted was a build that is dominant.

I could have put a 14 in Charisma that took no feats at all and I would still be "good" at the social and exploration pillar because of the advantage and the expertise. I would certainly be able to "contribute" while being awesome in combat as a fighter.

The advantage is something that comes with the Rune Knight subclass. Slight of Hand and Deception advantage for exampel come with Cloud Rune, which is a pretty powerful combat Rune in its own right. Those things are part of the subclass design. The build I posted above specifically and purposely plays on these things which come from the subclass.

Moreover the example above did not dump Dexterity. I had a 16 Dexterity. I think Sorcerer example is a poor one, because even if you took feats like the RK did you would not be as good. Even with a 20 Charisma you would not even be as good at the social pillar alone unless you really drove your spell selections for that specifically (Charm Person, Suggestion, Detect Thoughts etc). Would you be "able to contribute"? Sure you would.



Sure, but this seems to be different than what I thought you were saying earlier.

The Rune Knight is available to anyone who wants to play a fighter and it is one of the best platforms for a skill monkey. RK along with the Fey Wanderer Ranger, Soul Knife Rogue and Scout Rogue are the top skill Monkey subclasses in the entire game. Those 4 subclasses can dominate the social and exploration pillars if you build towards that purposely and do it better than any others can do while also remaining viable in combat.

Moreover the Rune Knight is really good in combat as well.

If you want to choose a different subclass then sure you will not be as good (in any pillar probably), but it is not like the fighter does not offer a platform to do this.





I don't think people really want a non-magic flavored fighter that can do "great things". People I play with love the flavor of Echo Knight and Rune Knight.

A subclass that did those things without being about Giants, or about a phantom going around but scored the same kind of damage, skill and mobility bonuses would not be as popular I don't think.



Well a Scimitar is not the best finesse weapon. If you look at a Rapier and Dueling you are doing 12-26 damage with your stick plus 1d6 when using Giant's might. A baseline EB Warlock with a 20 Charisma and agonizing blast is doing 12-30 which is about 10% better. That is not including the Fire Rune.

PAM/GWM is difficult to rate because you are using your bonus action and AC comes into play. If you consider giants might, 16 AC, 4 round combats and 6 combats a day with 2 short rests, my guess is GWM/PAM will come out about 25% higher. Shorter combats, higher AC, fewer combats or more short rests will tilt that difference further towards the skill build and away from the GWM/PAM. I will do the math on this tomorrow perhaps, I need to go play in about 10 minutes.
Looking purely at skills, I actually think Battlemaster outdoes rune knight. It's just there's more competition between Combat and out of Combat for the Battlemaster.
 

Pedantic

Legend
I agree that D&D DM's establish the fictional context of the check, though I would note it's not typically unilateral - players are usually given large latitude in framing their action against the fictional context the DM has already established. You probably agree here as well so don't think I'm suggesting otherwise.

However, after the players action has been committed to, the DM does determine the consequences of failure and the benefits of success. Often the players framing makes it clear what success should look like, ex: 'I want to jump over this obstacle' and thus success is he jumps over the obstacle. Failure is usually a bit more fluid, but still the potential options are typically obvious - 'you fall into the obstacle', or 'you almost fall in and are now holding on by the ledge'. i'd note here that this isn't DM story hour/gm decides or anything similar, where he can make up whatever consequence he wants, they still must revolve around the tables established fiction and/or fiction as established in his notes. That said, the more complex the task the player wants to accomplish, the less clear success and failure become. Social tasks tend to fall into this category, and exploration related tasks can go either way. Stealth is one of the more complex tasks associated with a single skill. It's in these areas, social and stealth that you most see the DM being able to decide what success and failure of the check looks like - but even here, it's still derived from the fiction, the DM's notes, and/or extrapolation - along with the described player action, which is still a far cry from anything resembling DM story hour/gm decides or anything similar.

We're talking quite specifically about 3.x skill resolution here. I'll give you social encounters, but barring that, most skills were written with specific outcomes, that did not require GM interpretation to apply to the game state. This did lead to problems and some clear design failures (it's effectively impossible to use Hide/Move Silently to accomplish much of anything purely as written), but GM interpretation was not a normative part of skill resolution.
 

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