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

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
*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.
That style is certainly more in line with my preference, on average.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
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.
More's the pity, IMO. I wouldn't mind seeing the balance back a bit more the other way.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
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.
Fair. I’m not as familiar with 3e.
 

ECMO3

Hero
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.

I don't think so, mostly because battlemaster dice are limited and each use is roughly the equivalent to the all the time advantage from the Runes.

Also, a Battlemaster that uses dice out of combat will be far worse than a Rune Knight in combat because when he is out of dice he is just a fighter with nothing extra, where the RK still has the Runes, Giants Might and Runic Shield.
 

Trasvi

Explorer
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.
<snip>
Yeah, Rune Knight does enable this build better with all its advantages. But a significant part is that you've enabled the build with stat allocation and feats. Advantage multiplies with your other build decisions to make it worthwhile: getting advantage on a DC20 check with +7 is significantly different to rolling with +0 (64% vs 10%). You've played in to those class features with your feats and skills; but for a character that builds a more combat-focussed RK those advantages end up being close to ribbon features.

An an aside, I've rarely had tool use (other than theives tools) come up in my games. Different DM styles I suppose.


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.
...
The advantage is something that comes with the Rune Knight subclass. Slight of Hand and Deception advantage for example 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.
You've provided a counterexample, which is great, it seems like a neat build, but its definitely an exception to all the other possible configurations of fighter. Like you said, RK is way better at this than other fighter subclasses, but it also needs the investment of stats and feats.
But lots of people want to play a non-RK fighter.


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.
I get it, this build with expertise and advantage in everything is REALLY good at doing things. Maybe even the best.
I think a lot of people's expections of 'good' is a little lower than 'dominant'. My last Sorcerer had +5 CHA, proficiency in 3 social skills, Lucky, a few helpful spells, and this was more than enough to be the 'face' of my party. He could have technically been better with Expertise, but this was rarely necessary. He was good at those skills without sacrificing any part of his build.

I don't think people really want a non-magic flavored fighter that can do "great things"
This really depends on what you mean by 'great things', and this is the heart of the issue for me.
A non-magical fighter shouldn't be able to fireball and teleport.
But currently most of them can't do anything more than auto-attack.
There's a happy medium somewhere in between those two points that WotC seems adamant not to explore, even though it seems to be highly desired by the community.

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.
The flavour of both these subclasses is cool. I also like the flavour of Champions and Cavaliers, but unfortunately their rules are lacking.
There's room in the game for 'mundane' flavoured characters, that do not the same things but things of equivalent impact. For the people who want to play Achilles or Boromir or Lan Mandragoran, but are unsatisfied with only having 'I hit it with my sword' as an available action. From what I am seeing, having more mechanically intersting martial classes is one of the most common requests, homebrews, and additions to wannabe 5e competitors.


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.
Apolgies, I used a Rapier in my calc but wrote Scimitar.
An important missing factor in your damage ranges is that the lower bound is 0 if you miss - which since you're not increasing DEX is more likely, so we can't just discount that.
The maths is long and not really the point here, but the answer ends up being that the non-combat-focussed Rune Knight is somewhere between 35% less DPR than a combat-optimised Rune Knight in the best case (fighting AC19) and up to 50% less as enemy AC goes up OR down. To me, thats not competent. YMMV with your party though.

All that is kinda tangents though. The main thing I was trying to say is that
a) Rune knight is probably the best fighter chassis to start with even for combat focus, except maybe Echo Knight
b) Saying that 'This one Rune Knight build can do skills' isn't a helpful answer to the general complaint that Fighters in general can't do skills.
 

Trasvi

Explorer
I don't think so, mostly because battlemaster dice are limited and each use is roughly the equivalent to the all the time advantage from the Runes.

Also, a Battlemaster that uses dice out of combat will be far worse than a Rune Knight in combat because when he is out of dice he is just a fighter with nothing extra, where the RK still has the Runes, Giants Might and Runic Shield.
Agreed, with only 6 maneuvers per rest, giving up ANY to non-combat really hurts.
In OneDnD, the updated battlemaster at lv15 gets a 'free' maneuver once per turn, which is AMAZING to pick up the non-combat maneuvers. Unfortunately, it comes at lv15, beyond what most people will play to.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I don't think so, mostly because battlemaster dice are limited and each use is roughly the equivalent to the all the time advantage from the Runes.
They also cover a broader range of skills. And limited use isn’t as big of a problem when you don’t have to waste superiority dice on really low or really high rolls.

Also, a Battlemaster that uses dice out of combat will be far worse than a Rune Knight in combat because when he is out of dice he is just a fighter with nothing extra, where the RK still has the Runes, Giants Might and Runic Shield.
That’s what I said.

Though short rest recharge might not make that as bad as first assumed - short rest, use the dice out of combat short rest before combat, use in combat, repeat.
 

ECMO3

Hero
Yeah, Rune Knight does enable this build better with all its advantages. But a significant part is that you've enabled the build with stat allocation and feats. Advantage multiplies with your other build decisions to make it worthwhile: getting advantage on a DC20 check with +7 is significantly different to rolling with +0 (64% vs 10%). You've played in to those class features with your feats and skills; but for a character that builds a more combat-focussed RK those advantages end up being close to ribbon features.

Sure, but that is a build choice.

An an aside, I've rarely had tool use (other than theives tools) come up in my games. Different DM styles I suppose.

RAW there are mechanics in TCE, you really need to leverage them to get the most out of it.

You've provided a counterexample, which is great, it seems like a neat build, but its definitely an exception to all the other possible configurations of fighter. Like you said, RK is way better at this than other fighter subclasses, but it also needs the investment of stats and feats.
But lots of people want to play a non-RK fighter.

I get that, but I also think that is a choice. You have a lot of options in how you build your PC. Some choices are better at some things that others are.

As a platform RK is one of the best skill platforms in the game. IMO, along with Fey Wanderer, Soul Knife and Scout it is really the best of the best, with individual gaming styles driving which of those four come out on top. You may be able to get some others to that level with spells (probably a Bard variant).

I get it, this build with expertise and advantage in everything is REALLY good at doing things. Maybe even the best.
I think a lot of people's expections of 'good' is a little lower than 'dominant'. My last Sorcerer had +5 CHA, proficiency in 3 social skills, Lucky, a few helpful spells, and this was more than enough to be the 'face' of my party. He could have technically been better with Expertise, but this was rarely necessary. He was good at those skills without sacrificing any part of his build.

True and Sorcerer in the top of tier 2+ is going to outrun just about any fighter in combat.

This really depends on what you mean by 'great things', and this is the heart of the issue for me.
A non-magical fighter shouldn't be able to fireball and teleport.
But currently most of them can't do anything more than auto-attack.
There's a happy medium somewhere in between those two points that WotC seems adamant not to explore, even though it seems to be highly desired by the community.

See I don't think it is really highly desired by most of the community. It is highly desired by some certainly, but I think those people are a minority. I think most players who want a non-magic fighter, really want it non-Magic and not doing a whole lot more than extra attack.

The flavour of both these subclasses is cool. I also like the flavour of Champions and Cavaliers, but unfortunately their rules are lacking.

Cavalier is pretty effective when I have played it, although it may be campaign and party dependent. It is even better if you are mounted and use the DMG marking rules in addition to the Cavalier Mark (although IME most players hate the DMG marking rules).


There's room in the game for 'mundane' flavoured characters, that do not the same things but things of equivalent impact. For the people who want to play Achilles or Boromir or Lan Mandragoran, but are unsatisfied with only having 'I hit it with my sword' as an available action. From what I am seeing, having more mechanically intersting martial classes is one of the most common requests, homebrews, and additions to wannabe 5e competitors.

I have played some 3P fighters, but nothing more powerful than the WOTC fighters. They were neat. I think the Boromir crowd is the ones who want fighters to be swinging a sword and not much more as that is what Broimir did (well that and blow a horn).


An important missing factor in your damage ranges is that the lower bound is 0 if you miss - which since you're not increasing DEX is more likely, so we can't just discount that.

Yes this is true. I edited the post above to include damage on the PAM build and that includes chance to hit. This also goes for the GWM/PAM build too though and then you have the "small bites"

If you are talking about EB-AB 20 Charisma vs Rapier-Dueling 18 Dex the actual DPR vs 16 AC in raw numbers is 14.2 vs 13.05, so that is down 8%. There is a lot that is not being considered here though, action surge (which is going to be more than a 10% boost in most campaigns), Giants Might and Fire Rune. On the Warlock you are not considering spells or invocations other than AB.

The maths is long and not really the point here, but the answer ends up being that the non-combat-focussed Rune Knight is somewhere between 35% less DPR than a combat-optimised Rune Knight in the best case (fighting AC19) and up to 50% less as enemy AC goes up OR down. To me, thats not competent. YMMV with your party though.

It depends on what you call "combat optimized" The math above was 38% lower compared to a 20-strength PAM/GWM over the course of a day assuming fighting a 16AC enemy (given a bunch of assumptions). At 19AC it would be less than 38%.

You are right milage does vary and I have found that the GWM/PAM whiteroom build looks great in numbers, but does very poorly in most campaigns because you really need a magic pole arm to make it work and that is often not the case. When it is the case it is usually a +1 weapon even late in game when others are finding ae flame tounge or Dragontooth dagger or Sunblade or something else. If you look at all the official WOTC adventures, I don't think you will find any magic Halberds or Glaives at all. That is not to say your DM won't add it for you, but those I have played with haven't added that when PCs went the GWM/PAM route.

Moreover that is the point. If you purposely build to be better at combat and not as good at the social and exploration pillars then you won't be as good at them. With the Runk Knight though there is certainly a lot of available middle ground, assumign at least average rolls.
 

ECMO3

Hero
They also cover a broader range of skills. And limited use isn’t as big of a problem when you don’t have to waste superiority dice on really low or really high rolls.

Yeah but you would not even be getting those really low rolls if you had advantage. If you roll a 2 on the first dice your average with your battlemaster maneuver is a 6.5, so you are not going to use it, but your average with advantage is 11 if you roll a 2 on the first dice.

Also the expertise on tools can cover a bunch of skill checks if you get multiple tool proficiencies. Expertise on theives tools means you can get expertise on perception or investigation looking for traps or figuring out how they work in addition to the advantage and expertise on the slight of hand to disable traps or open the lock.

If you don't get the fire rune, then you can get cloud rune which would be another skill with advantage. that would be 5 at 7th level and 6 at 9th level, vs I think 7 skills you could get to roll battlemaster dice on.

Often you are making checks between combats without a chance to rest or during combat. Some days I would agree the rests are going to be meaningless, other times it is going to be huge though.

If you are bringing limited use short rest abilities into the discussion, the Rune Knight can get +2 on all Strength and Constitution checks for a minute and in addition to advantage on all strength checks for a minute, either together once per short rest or individually twice per short rest. An RK can also get one of the BM maneuvers through superior technique. While the BM can do that too, he would presumably already have that maneuver.
 

Hell0W0rld

Explorer
I think most players who want a non-magic fighter, really want it non-Magic...

100% true.

...and not doing a whole lot more than extra attack.

100% not true. I want a fighter who can impale in a straight line to hit two foes. I want a fighter who can bash a target over the head to inflict status effects. I want a fighter who can force their opponent backward and cede ground. I want a fighter who can jump in front of an ally to take an enemy attack in their place.

Before you bring up the Battlemaster, these are not extraordinary, game-warping effects that need to be restricted behind a subclass. Fighters are the most popular class across every edition because a majority of players like the premise of being an armored frontline warrior, and not because their optimal gameplay loop is spamming Extra Attack.
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top