D&D General The Linear Fighter/Quadratic Wizard Problem

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Arguably, because the exploration pillar was removed from 4e.
I don't know 4e, but I do know that it's utterly impossible to remove the exploration pillar from D&D and still be able to play it. "I go find the local bar" is exploration and I'm reasonably certain that stuff like that happened in 4e.

Perhaps 4e removed mechanical aid to PCs in that pillar, but it didn't remove the pillar. :)
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Micah Sweet

Legend
The real issue as I see is the perceived requirement for fighters to be "simple". There are plenty of ways to make non-spellcasters more useful and interesting in different parts if the game (Level Up does a pretty solid job IMO). But they require a complexity bump, which some people (including WotC) seem to have a problem with.
 

Undrave

Hero
But the tier 4 part also talks about level 20. A Cleric can ascend to the heavens and become their god's right hand. A Warlock could straight up become a patron for other Warlocks. A Wizard becomes immortal and expends eons exploring the multiverse. A Druid becomes one with nature and turns into a spirit of the land. The other classes aren't even mentioned by name, but the rest can't really compare to the above . . .
4e had a fix for that! It was called Epic Destinies and each of them, even for the Martial characters (also ANYBODY could pick up the Demigod Epic Destiny), gave you incredible abilities. Usually you had one feature that would start by "Once per day, when you die...". Like, the completely Martial 'Dark Wanderer' could just... wander back from the Afterlife. They would, literally, show up on foot sometime after dying. Their whole thing being able to walk anywhere in the cosmos in 24h by finding shortcuts and portals and stuff. I think one of the Rogue Epic Destiny could steal non-material things. And each of them had a section on immortality and the legacy of your character after level 30! They were a great read.
I don't think this is an either/or sort of issue. By the principle that "Feats are a fighter's spells" the same "Fighting Man" class ought to be able to build tank like brutes and cunning warlords and every combination thereof.
I disagree. I think trying to jam two competing design philosophies in the same frame is probably possible, but I also think it’d be a lot of effort to get a good version of it. And for what exactly? Upholding a dubious tradition that was constantly used to downplay the contribution of non-caster? To limit the number of classes for some arbitrary version of streamlining?

I don’t think it’s worth it at all if it costs us an interesting non-caster.

And those feats would need to be unique to the Fighter, because I particularly despise the "If Fighter can do X, anybody who can swings a sword can do it" trope.
The idea that I'm trying to fight against is something we've seen creep into the game since 3e, which is that martial classes are defined by really narrow concepts like "Pirate" or "Chain Wielder" or "Warlord" and they do that one thing that they do, but spellcasters do everything.
"Warlord" is a pretty broad concept though. The Mundane Leader of Men can be a LOT of things. From Robin Hood to Zhuge Liang, they can have very different flavour and styles.
 

Undrave

Hero
A liability to the rest of the game, not to the wizard's player, who is probably fine with it. If your solution is to take toys away, you're going to face an uphill battle.
Augh I know... Wizard fans are the worst.

It's why you'd want to do it at the change of an edition and dazzle them with cool class features before they realize you took away a lot of their INDIVIDUAL flexibility (Personally I'd reduce the base class' spell list but give them a big, curated, list based on their subclass). Maybe frame it as going back to the way you used to have magic schools you were barred from learning from? Grognards love a throwback!
 

Stalker0

Legend
When we talk about this imbalance, there are actually two different areas to cover.

Combat Balance
Narrative Balance

Combat Balance
I do think 5e's combat balance is pretty good. Often martials are the strongest damage dealers, and are quite hard to take down, and this remains true even at the higher levels. If there is a problem here its that some combat problems lack a non-magical solution. Case in point....Wall of Force. Fighter gets trapped behind a wall of force, that's the ballgame, there is really nothing that they can do. 5e still expects magic to be on hand to fight magic.

But on the whole, I am pretty satisfied here.

Narrative Balance
This is where I think the imbalance still remains. Sure the martials feel pretty good when its combat time, but the rest of the time they don't have nearly the tools of magic users. You have some downtime, and the casters get to fabricate things, make magic items, cast divinations and learn cool prophecies. You explore an ancient ruins, casters can detect magic and identify, use speak with dead to have a personal conversation with a dead body they found, etc.

What happens in these cases is that casters start taking an unfair share of the DMs time in these scenarios. The martials might get an investigation check, maybe a knowledge check if they have it. Meanwhile casters get to have the DM go into length about all the things their magical detections find.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
Augh I know... Wizard fans are the worst.

It's why you'd want to do it at the change of an edition and dazzle them with cool class features before they realize you took away a lot of their INDIVIDUAL flexibility (Personally I'd reduce the base class' spell list but give them a big, curated, list based on their subclass). Maybe frame it as going back to the way you used to have magic schools you were barred from learning from? Grognards love a throwback!
Yeah, can't say I love using deception to trick people into playing a weakened version of their class.

I think we should make wizards squishing again, restrict how you can cast spells successfully, and make magic potentially dangerous. But I know that's not a popular take.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
Narrative Balance
This is where I think the imbalance still remains. Sure the martials feel pretty good when its combat time, but the rest of the time they don't have nearly the tools of magic users. You have some downtime, and the casters get to fabricate things, make magic items, cast divinations and learn cool prophecies. You explore an ancient ruins, casters can detect magic and identify, use speak with dead to have a personal conversation with a dead body they found, etc.

What happens in these cases is that casters start taking an unfair share of the DMs time in these scenarios. The martials might get an investigation check, maybe a knowledge check if they have it. Meanwhile casters get to have the DM go into length about all the things their magical detections find.
In my experience, the narrative difference is overblown. Yes, a spell caster opens some vistas that wouldn't be open otherwise, but they're vistas pretty much everyone participates in. If not, there's probably a group dynamic problem that needs addressing. For example, the cleric may be casting speak with dead, but everyone at the table is generally participating in figuring out good questions to ask. A wizard may be able to cast teleportation circle, but he's generally not doing so without the rest of his party going with him. A spell caster might make an extra dimensional space as a home, but it doesn't affect time at the table in any significant way. And, while I've heard of wizards in prior editions using astral projection to adventure with their non-astral buddies with little real risk, any group that allows them to do that without also sharing that ability has that group dynamic problem I mentioned above.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Yeah, can't say I love using deception to trick people into playing a weakened version of their class.

I think we should make wizards squishing again, restrict how you can cast spells successfully, and make magic potentially dangerous. But I know that's not a popular take.
Over in the Jumping thread people are arguing that the Jump spell doesn't allow you to exceed the general limitation on jump distance(your move) despite the Jump spell specifically stating you jump triple distance. The reason they say, is that the spell doesn't specifically say, "This spell overrides the general distance limitation on jumping."

Well, no spell specifically overrides a general rule. Teleport doesn't say, "This spell overrides the general limitation on PCs to have to walk places." Fly doesn't say that it specifically overrides the general limitation on walking, either. Generally, PCs don't throw fireballs from their fingers and the Fireball spell doesn't specifically override that limitation.

Apparently by RAW no caster can actually cast spells! Martials for the win!! Huzzah! ;)
 

Undrave

Hero
Yeah, can't say I love using deception to trick people into playing a weakened version of their class.

I think we should make wizards squishing again, restrict how you can cast spells successfully, and make magic potentially dangerous. But I know that's not a popular take.
I don’t want to reduce their potential damage, or their number of spells slot. I just want them to have meaningful, impactful, choices at chargen and that they don’t get to just rewrite their characters on a whim to constantly overshadow everybody else. If you commit to be an Illusionist, you’re not gonna be able to turn around on a dime and switch your loadout of just Evocation spells when you know you’ll be fighting a ton of minions. I want each Wizard to feel more unique and deliberate in their build.

I want them to look at a Wizard class and be excited to play it before they even get to the spell list because the features are interesting.

Also, I think there should be more rituals. Any spell with a component with a cost should be a ritual (and vice versa, any ritual should have a money component). Add mechanics so that more ritualist can help to boost the Ritual at the cost of mis-casting. Managing your ritual components should be a thing that matters at low level, and slapping the Ritual Caster feat should be a great way to introduce magic into a character without making them outright spell casters with slots.
 
Last edited:

Celebrim

Legend
The real issue as I see is the perceived requirement for fighters to be "simple". There are plenty of ways to make non-spellcasters more useful and interesting in different parts if the game (Level Up does a pretty solid job IMO). But they require a complexity bump, which some people (including WotC) seem to have a problem with.

This was actually a big issue with 5e, and one of the several reasons I never adopted it. 5e very much was focused on cutting down on the game complexity and being very approachable for young players. But in doing so, they removed all the levers that could be available for making martial classes flexible and fun to play. They ended up siloing options for playing a martial class into the subclass options.

Since my game is heavily skill focused, the very narrow range of skill differences in the bounded accuracy would have forced some really wonky unintuitive changes. 5e very much tightly focused skills on being pass fail mechanisms and abandoned skills as showing the magnitude of ability.
 

Celebrim

Legend
4e had a fix for that! It was called Epic Destinies...

4e is the only version of the game that expressly had an epic tier as a core part of its game, taking the game from 1-30 as are core part of it's game. And I think the epic destinies are fine in the epic tier. Personally, I have never gamed all the way to level 20, and have a hard time imagining carrying a game up to 30. I find that even playing 25-30 times a year, we only go up 2 levels or so a year. A 1-30 campaign for me would be like 15 years with the same group gaming every other week. I'd have grandkids by then.

I think trying to jam two competing design philosophies in the same frame is probably possible...

I don't see really any competing design philosophy at all.

but I also think it’d be a lot of effort to get a good version of it.

Yeah, but so. IMNSHO, my Champion class is best designed 3e class. I would would love to have fighter be equally well done, but feats - which most designers treated as something easy to design - are in my experience one of the hardest things to get right. I don't think 3e, 4e, or 5e designers really did feats well, though I do like the direction 5e went.

And for what exactly?....To limit the number of classes for some arbitrary version of streamlining?

There is nothing arbitrary about streamlined and flexible chargen. Rules bloat is horrible for a system and from 3e on we've been seeing WotC build rules bloat into the system for the explicit purpose of selling books, and not because it makes for a better gaming experience. All those silo'd out class abilities, and silo'd out classes do immense damage to the game. You're basically arguing for a system where everyone's character concept is hard coded by a designer.

And those feats would need to be unique to the Fighter, because I particularly despise the "If Fighter can do X, anybody who can swings a sword can do it" trope.

Ok, if you are happy with that. That in essence would return us back to 1e where only fighter and it's subclasses could fight. I'm not interested in a PnP game where everyone has 5 different character defining powers on cool downs. I can get that elsewhere.

"Warlord" is a pretty broad concept though. The Mundane Leader of Men can be a LOT of things. From Robin Hood to Zhuge Liang, they can have very different flavour and styles.

Yeah, and? You seem to be upset that I've threated your world of narrowly defined martial artists with a separate subclass for everything. How about applying your same logic to Pirate? Pirate is a pretty broad concept. They can have very different flavour and styles. Absolutely then we need a pirate as it's own class, right? Because sailing a ship is too far outside of what a fighter can be expected to do, or something?
 

Undrave

Hero
There is nothing arbitrary about streamlined and flexible chargen.
I mean the specific number of classes is arbitrary.
Ok, if you are happy with that. That in essence would return us back to 1e where only fighter and it's subclasses could fight. I'm not interested in a PnP game where everyone has 5 different character defining powers on cool downs. I can get that elsewhere.
If Feats are Spells for martial, then there should be exclusive Feats. If the Wizards has exclusive spells no other casters get, the Fighter should have Feats no other martial type gets.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I mean the specific number of classes is arbitrary.

Maybe so, but if the number of classes is more than like 15, you've designed your classes wrong.

If Feats are Spells for martial, then there should be exclusive Feats. If the Wizards has exclusive spells no other casters get, the Fighter should have Feats no other martial type gets.

Now that you mention it, I can think of little reason why spells would need to be exclusive to a particular class. Wracking my brain for good examples, the only cases I can think of are so narrow that they probably wouldn't be in the core rules. What do you have in mind as a spell that should be restricted to wizards?
 

Amros

Explorer
[...] The entire Battlemaster kit - Tripping folks? Disarming them? You mean while the Wizard can use a reaction to make multiple people Feather Fall, I as the Fighter need a specific class feature in order to try to trip someone, a limited number of times per day? We have TOMES of spells, literally, while incredibly basic things like 'grabbing someone's weapon so they can't swing with it' require significant DM adjudication. [...]
I just wanted to add something to this issue, no problem if you disagree. The fact is, RAW you can Disarm an enemy an unlimited number of times (DMG, page 271); what the Battlemaster is enabling is disarming while still doing damage at the same time. But as the words in parenthesis imply, the option being in the DMG and not in the PHB is the same as the option not existing.

Maybe the issue with Fighters would be lightened if those options/actions, among other Battlemaster's Maneuvers stripped of the damage, were in the PHB as 'Combat Maneuvers' -- being part of the Attack action, replacing one attack, or maybe a Bonus Action like Overrun (DMG, page 272, or even a 'Once per turn'. And this is something very cheap the 2024 PHB could do.

Of course, this doesn't "fix" the Fighter as a whole, but much of the discussions seem focused on the 'not just rolling an attack/damage' part.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
4e is the only version of the game that expressly had an epic tier as a core part of its game, taking the game from 1-30 as are core part of it's game. And I think the epic destinies are fine in the epic tier. Personally, I have never gamed all the way to level 20, and have a hard time imagining carrying a game up to 30. I find that even playing 25-30 times a year, we only go up 2 levels or so a year. A 1-30 campaign for me would be like 15 years with the same group gaming every other week. I'd have grandkids by then.



I don't see really any competing design philosophy at all.



Yeah, but so. IMNSHO, my Champion class is best designed 3e class. I would would love to have fighter be equally well done, but feats - which most designers treated as something easy to design - are in my experience one of the hardest things to get right. I don't think 3e, 4e, or 5e designers really did feats well, though I do like the direction 5e went.



There is nothing arbitrary about streamlined and flexible chargen. Rules bloat is horrible for a system and from 3e on we've been seeing WotC build rules bloat into the system for the explicit purpose of selling books, and not because it makes for a better gaming experience. All those silo'd out class abilities, and silo'd out classes do immense damage to the game. You're basically arguing for a system where everyone's character concept is hard coded by a designer.



Ok, if you are happy with that. That in essence would return us back to 1e where only fighter and it's subclasses could fight. I'm not interested in a PnP game where everyone has 5 different character defining powers on cool downs. I can get that elsewhere.



Yeah, and? You seem to be upset that I've threated your world of narrowly defined martial artists with a separate subclass for everything. How about applying your same logic to Pirate? Pirate is a pretty broad concept. They can have very different flavour and styles. Absolutely then we need a pirate as it's own class, right? Because sailing a ship is too far outside of what a fighter can be expected to do, or something?
To be fair, selling books has always had priority over creating a better gaming experience (except maybe in 2nd ed).
 

Undrave

Hero
Maybe so, but if the number of classes is more than like 15, you've designed your classes wrong.
It depends how you build your classes. If you got 20 classes but they only take 1-2 pages each, is that more or less simple and streamlined than the current PHB?

My point was that deciding that the 'I just want to attack' class should be included into the same class as the Battlemaster is an arbitrary form of streamlining that actively reduced the design space of the Fighter.

Now that you mention it, I can think of little reason why spells would need to be exclusive to a particular class. Wracking my brain for good examples, the only cases I can think of are so narrow that they probably wouldn't be in the core rules. What do you have in mind as a spell that should be restricted to wizards?
In base 5e, the following spells are exclusives to the listed classes (note that Sorcerers have ZERO exclusive spells)

Bard Class:
  • Vicious Mockery
  • Dissonant Whispers
  • Compulsion
  • Power Word Heal
Cleric Class:
  • Sacred Flame
  • Spare the Dying
  • Thaumaturgy
  • Inflict Wounds
  • Sanctuary
  • Augury (ritual)
  • Hallow
  • Prayer of Healing
  • Spiritual Weapon
  • Warding Bond
  • Beacon of Hope
  • Mass Healing Word
  • Spirit Guardians
  • Divination (ritual)
  • Guardian of Faith
  • Commune (ritual)
  • Flame Strike
  • Blade Barrier
  • Forbiddance (ritual)
  • Harm
  • Planar Ally
  • Word of Recall
  • Conjure Celestial
  • Divine Word
  • Holy Aura
  • Mass Heal
Druid Class:
  • Druidcraft
  • Produce Flame
  • Shillelagh
  • Thorn Whip
  • Entangle
  • Flame Blade
  • Moonbeam
  • Giant Insect
  • Antilife Shell
  • Reincarnate
  • Transport via Plants
  • Wall of Thorns
  • Wind Walk
  • Animal Shapes
  • Tsunami
  • Storm of Vengeance
Paladin Class:
  • Compelled Duel
  • Divine Favor
  • Searing Smite
  • Thunderous Smite
  • Wrathful Smite
  • Branding Smite
  • Find Steed
  • Aura of Vitality
  • Blinding Smite
  • Crusader's Mantle
  • Elemental Weapon
  • Aura of Life
  • Aura of Purity
  • Staggering Smite
  • Banishing Smite
  • Circle of Power
  • Destructive Wave
Ranger Class:
  • Ensnaring Strike
  • Hail of Thorns
  • Hunter's Mark
  • Cordon of Arrows
  • Conjure Barrage
  • Lightning Arrow
  • Conjure Volley
  • Swift Quiver
Warlock Class:
  • Eldritch Blast
  • Armor of Agathys
  • Arms of Hadar
  • Hellish Rebuke
  • Hex
  • Hunger of Hadar
Wizard Class:
  • Find Familiar (ritual)
  • Grease
  • Tenser's Floating Disk (ritual)
  • Arcane Lock
  • Melf's Acid Arrow
  • Nystul's Magic Aura
  • Rope Trick
  • Phantom Steed (ritual)
  • Arcane Eye
  • Evard's Black Tentacles
  • Fabricate
  • Fire Shield
  • Leomund's Secret Chest
  • Mordenkainen's Faithful Hound
  • Otiluke's Resilient Sphere
  • Phantasmal Killer
  • Bigby's Hand
  • Passwall
  • Rary's Telepathic Bond (ritual)
  • Wall of Force
  • Chain Lightning
  • Contingency
  • Drawmij's Instant Summons (ritual)
  • Magic Jar
  • Otilike's Freezing Sphere
  • Wall of Ice
  • Mordenkainen's Sword
  • Sequester
  • Simulacrum
  • Clone
  • Maze
  • Telepathy
  • Prismatic Wall
  • Weird

I dunno what the specific reasons are (I assume thematic reasons) but that's how it is. The Wizard has the most exclusive spells. It's possible through subclasses and feats to have access to those exclusives, mind you, but if you just check the base class spell lists, this is what you get.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
@Celebrim I appreciate your thoughtfulness here, and I'm following your discussion and design brainstorming. I'm a little less active on forums these days, but your approach to this topic is of great interest to me!

I've previously drafted a fighter rewrite for 5e, actually another rewrite here too! I see some of your ideas echoed in my early attempts.

I'll wait until you've had the chance to share your ideas before commenting. Right now just in listening mode. B-)
 

Marcotic

Explorer
One thought I had, relating to what another poster had said, had to do w/ feats and how they are used. Its a meta conceit that holds all characters are, if not strictly magical, certainly outside mundane abilities. To that end, you could have a number of points per day that enable epic effects, like climbing up glass or even as simple as rerolling a check. These could be spelled out during character gen or they could be more narratively applied in the moment, and characters w/out magical abilities would be given more of them per day.
my homebrew fix is to base daily abilities on number of encounters rather than resting.
 

Celebrim

Legend
It depends how you build your classes. If you got 20 classes but they only take 1-2 pages each, is that more or less simple and streamlined than the current PHB?

I can't answer that with knowing how much design space your 20 classes cover. What your system should be going for is covering basically any type of character concept that player brings to the table that fits with your fantasy theme. And if your 20 1-2 page classes do that, then great. But my suspicion is that either the classes will be so narrow that you are just fitting into one of 20 inflexible archetypes, or else that your system is so generic that everyone is using the same mechanics with different color, or both.

I don't believe that there is a "I just want to attack" class. I don't think that's a class concept. I don't think that's a character concept. "I want to be a master of weapons" is better, but hardly sufficient. For that to be sufficient the whole game just has to be about combat with no exploration, no social interaction and intrigue, etc. Or else the things that aren't combat have to be so trivial that you can get away with having one member of the party useless in everything that isn't combat.

You need to have a class that can cover everything from being a pirate to a courtly knight. And that's not that hard. That's just selection of skills and feats with the core idea of, I'm a competent warrior in every respect. Because both those characters as they level up can transition into being lords. The pirate is captain of his own ship. The courtly knight gets a castle and retrainers and an army. You don't want a class that is forced into being a lackey - some more important figures meat shield. If the player wants to go that way, then fine but that's not what the Fighter class should be designed for.

As for your spell lists, I think you are using legitimately bad design to justify more bad design.

Like what if my player comes to me and says, "I want to play Elsa". In my system, I say, "Great. You want to be a natural Cryomancer. Get a sorcerer. Take the Frigid bloodline. Take the Elemental Mastery feat and choose 'Cold' as your element. Take Spellcasting Prodigy as your trait, and then pick up any spells that you think complement your cold theme. When you do magic, we'll flavor it as if everything you are doing is ice based. So like when you cast Mage Armor, we'll flavor that as you are covering your body with ice in response to attacks."

But if have the same player come in and I have 5e, well "Wall of Ice" and "Freezing Sphere" is exclusive to the Wizard list for who only knows what reason.
 

Celebrim

Legend
like climbing up glass

What bonus do you think an insect has to a climb check? So it has to be more than humanly possible, but in the real world probably there are no more than like 5th or 6th level characters at most. So the level of what is humanly possible is pretty low. Are giant flies in your campaign world able to cling to sheer surfaces? If they are, why not a 15th level rogue or fighter? Why do they have to be epic before their skill can do more than is humanly possible? By the time you get to double digits, why can't you climb as well as animals, jump as well as kangaroos and do all the other things that mundane creatures can do that are just a little bit more than what is realistically possible for a human? In a fantasy.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top