D&D 5E The Magical Martial

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Then I think we're not as far apart as your impassable divide post would suggest. We also think having that fantasy stuff is fun. And I, personally, very much enjoy thinking through the logic for how such things might exist and what implications may follow.

Which is exactly why I don't want the game to do it for me.
You said that explanations didn't matter. Forgive me if I thought that meant that explanations didn't matter.
 

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You said that explanations didn't matter. Forgive me if I thought that meant that explanations didn't matter.
Sometimes the explanations matter; sometimes they don't, for me, personally.

But the explanation (if it matters to me) exists because the fun different thing exists.

And the fun different thing exists, because it's a fun different thing.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Does every setting have all of those systems running simultaneously? I'd also note that each of those systems have their own rules for how they work and what you can and cannot do with them. It's complex, of course, but I have zero issues with complexity.

Yes.

Arcane magic works differently than divine magic works differently than bardic magic works differently than psionics works differently than druidic magic works differently than Ki. The game may present most of them as "spells" but the background and story of them are all completely different, they are learned differently, taught differently, function differently.

Heck, a Barbarian rage can call forth ancestor spirits that functions entirely differentl from everything else I just mentioned too.

Druid wildshape lets you become an animal right? well, unless you are a spores druid that then empowers a fungal colony, but druid wildshape allows involves living things right? Well, unless you are a star's druid and can embody the concepts of constellations, which aren't even real things that nature would recognize.

I have devoted a lot of time to trying to write a consistent magic system for DnD... but it just doesn't work. Everything is an exception or a blending. And every official DnD setting has all of the DnD classes and subclasses in it, so it has all of these different competing power systems. And the only other thing in literature that gets even close to this... is superhero media. Because in superhero media you often end up with "super powers" "super tech" "magic" and "psychics" all mixing and competing... and it is a mess. With most authors who aren't writing for the big two comic universes either shrugging or focusing on only a single aspect and just not having the rest of them.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Something along the lines of make a DC 20 Strength (???) check and your maximum lift, drag, carry is doubled until the start of your next turn. DC 25 could be triple, DC 30 quadruple or something.

Gut says that those DCs should all be dropped by 5. A DC 30 is technically possible, but for a fighter as they exist right now, it isn't really reasonable with a max bonus of +11. And since it only raises the limit to 2,400 lbs, I don't think it should be nearly impossible for a 20th level fighter to pull of.
 

ezo

Where is that Singe?
Gut says that those DCs should all be dropped by 5. A DC 30 is technically possible, but for a fighter as they exist right now, it isn't really reasonable with a max bonus of +11. And since it only raises the limit to 2,400 lbs, I don't think it should be nearly impossible for a 20th level fighter to pull of.
The problem with lowering the DCs is they become too easy IMO. Now, I get your point, the +11 (normal maximum) sucks for DC 30, but again this is a flaw in WotC's design to me.

Expertise, for example, should be available to all classes (at a cost of two skills for expertise in one, but Rogues and Bards get it "for free"). This way, a Fighter could choose to take Expertise in whatever "lifting skill" you want to use, bringing the bonus up to +17, which makes "triple lifts" (DC 25) fairly likely, and "quad lifts" (DC 30) still a reasonable chance. After all, at this point, that is double the current world record in real life. Which, for me, is about as "strong" as I want a martial to be. Such a PC could lift a 1000 lbs Ogre by making a DC 20 "double lift" 90% (3 or better) of the time.

Personally, such a system is acceptable to me, and could apply towards other acts of physical prowess. The same DCs could be applied to jump distances (allowing a STR 20 PC to jump up to 80 feet!), or even "sprinting", moving a x4 speed for the turn, doubled again to x8 taking the Dash action. At base 30 speed, that would be 240 feet in the turn (6 seconds), which is faster than humanly possible IRL, about an 8.2 second 100-meter sprint. Include other things like Mobile, and it is even faster.

Combined with other features which double lifting, add to base speeds, allow further jumps, etc. it would be a simple system which easily enhances martials physical abilities beyond real-life humans, but not beyond the realm of plausibility in a fantasy world/game, at least to my mind, via training, etc.

EDIT: Just adding some numbers as examples:

20th-level Goliath Bear Totem Barbarian with Expertise in "Lifting skill" and STR 24 (20+Primal Champion) and unlimited Rages.
  • Normal Maximum Lift: 2,880 lbs. (24 x 30 x 2 goliath x 2 bear totem)
  • Strength ("lifting skill") bonus = +19 (+7 STR, +12 expertise)
  • DC 30 requires 11 or better, with advantage from Rage is 75% for success.
  • This quadruples max lift to 11,520 lbs!
  • Doubling would be automatic since the DC is 20.
Such a check might require the PC's action maybe? This way the PC couldn't just lift 5,760 lbs all the time...

At a more reasonable level, say 10th:
  • Normal Maximum Lift: 2,400 lbs. (20 x 30 x 2 x 2)
  • Strength check bonus +13 (+5 STR, +8 expertise)
  • DC 25 requires 12 or better, lowering the Rage chances to about 70%.
  • This triples lift to 7,200 lbs, or 62% of what the 20th-level scenario could do!
Make Powerful Build something available via a Feat, so you wouldn't be tied into Goliath or similar races.

Fighters have options through various subclasses to gain advantage on the checks as well.
 
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CreamCloud0

One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
You said that explanations didn't matter. Forgive me if I thought that meant that explanations didn't matter.
I believe what was actually said wasn’t that ‘explanations don’t matter’ but instead ’which explanation didn’t matter’, which is an entirely different kind of statement.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
The problem with lowering the DCs is they become too easy IMO. Now, I get your point, the +11 (normal maximum) sucks for DC 30, but again this is a flaw in WotC's design to me.

Expertise, for example, should be available to all classes (at a cost of two skills for expertise in one, but Rogues and Bards get it "for free"). This way, a Fighter could choose to take Expertise in whatever "lifting skill" you want to use, bringing the bonus up to +17, which makes "triple lifts" (DC 25) fairly likely, and "quad lifts" (DC 30) still a reasonable chance. After all, at this point, that is double the current world record in real life. Which, for me, is about as "strong" as I want a martial to be. Such a PC could lift a 1000 lbs Ogre by making a DC 20 "double lift" 90% (3 or better) of the time.

Personally, such a system is acceptable to me, and could apply towards other acts of physical prowess. The same DCs could be applied to jump distances (allowing a STR 20 PC to jump up to 80 feet!), or even "sprinting", moving a x4 speed for the turn, doubled again to x8 taking the Dash action. At base 30 speed, that would be 240 feet in the turn (6 seconds), which is faster than humanly possible IRL, about an 8.2 second 100-meter sprint. Include other things like Mobile, and it is even faster.

Combined with other features which double lifting, add to base speeds, allow further jumps, etc. it would be a simple system which easily enhances martials physical abilities beyond real-life humans, but not beyond the realm of plausibility in a fantasy world/game, at least to my mind, via training, etc.

I suppose giving Expertise or lowering the DC end up having about the same result mathematically.

The problem, as in a design puzzle sort of problem, is that if you offer expertise, it needs to be completely free-range. A fighter or other martial needs to be able to choose any skill to apply expertise too, from history to perception and stealth. Meanwhile, if this "physical ability" system is designed assuming that the fighter has expertise, then it ends up being either ignored or the only choice.

The thing is, doubling your lifting capacity or jumping distance is just not nearly as useful as stealth or perception, because using it effectively requires circumstances and clever play. Meanwhile everyone rolls stealth and perception checks consistently, even if they aren't built for them. I think even if you implement this system, you might still see a lot of people ignore it and put expertise into the more commonly useful skills. This is part of why I'm thinking of lowering the DCs. 15 isn't that much easier to hit if you are looking at normal ability score numbers, and the end result is till the high level PC hitting the number about 90% of the time (needing a 4 or better)

Looking over the rest of it, I'm struck that doubling movement speed for a check is very extreme. IT essentially allows for a free dash action. I do want melee fighters to be faster, but this might be too much. The other uses in jumping or lifting will likely take actions or bonus actions (jumping is tricky) but the movement speed increase would be useless if it did. IT might be better to have the first movement increase be by 1.5 then 2 then 2.5 or 15/30/45. This makes the top speed 75 or 150 with dash, but that is with a base of 30 ft.

I'm not against the more impressive top-speed, I'm more looking at the value of the dash action. It is already a very under-utilized action unless you can use it as a bonus action, and I'm worried that an easy doubling of movement speed would kill it entirely, except for those classes like the rogue or monk. Which, by the way, hit monumental speeds with even a bit of tweaking.

EDIT: Just adding some numbers as examples:

20th-level Goliath Bear Totem Barbarian with Expertise in "Lifting skill" and STR 24 (20+Primal Champion) and unlimited Rages.
  • Normal Maximum Lift: 2,880 lbs. (24 x 30 x 2 goliath x 2 bear totem)
  • Strength ("lifting skill") bonus = +19 (+7 STR, +12 expertise)
  • DC 30 requires 11 or better, with advantage from Rage is 75% for success.
  • This quadruples max lift to 11,520 lbs!
  • Doubling would be automatic since the DC is 20.
Such a check might require the PC's action maybe? This way the PC couldn't just lift 5,760 lbs all the time...

Well, you do need to remember that the "max lift" is the "pick it up, maybe stumble 5 ft with it" score, not the lift and carry score, which is generally half of the max. So, halving to ~2850, and I can see a 20th level Goliath Bear Totem Barbarian with 24 strength being capable of carrying a small car down the street.

Make Powerful Build something available via a Feat, so you wouldn't be tied into Goliath or similar races.

I've honestly debated on that. What holds me back is, again, the fantasy. Orcs and Goliaths will both have powerful build, and both are classically picked by people who want to be "the strong guy" and I want people to feel like that is a legitimate choice since useful cases of strength are pretty rare compared to other scores.

I think I would be much more inclined to leave Powerful Build as race specific, but if someone was playing a human and truly wanted that extra capacity, I'd find a way for them to achieve it.

Fighters have options through various subclasses to gain advantage on the checks as well.

Hmm, I did forget about them getting advantage from a subclass ability. That might change the math a bit.
 

ezo

Where is that Singe?
I suppose giving Expertise or lowering the DC end up having about the same result mathematically.

The problem, as in a design puzzle sort of problem, is that if you offer expertise, it needs to be completely free-range. A fighter or other martial needs to be able to choose any skill to apply expertise too, from history to perception and stealth. Meanwhile, if this "physical ability" system is designed assuming that the fighter has expertise, then it ends up being either ignored or the only choice.
Expertise in this fashion is free-range, as long as one understands backgrounds are meant to be completely customizable!. The idea of "pay for a skill proficiency twice" gets you expertise, if you want something not on your class skill list, you'll likely have to get it from your background.

So, while some players might take Athletics, or Brawn, or whatever for more "combat reasons", getting expertise in History or Medicine (field medic anyone?) or whatever is a viable option depending on your concept of course.

The thing is, doubling your lifting capacity or jumping distance is just not nearly as useful as stealth or perception, because using it effectively requires circumstances and clever play. Meanwhile everyone rolls stealth and perception checks consistently, even if they aren't built for them. I think even if you implement this system, you might still see a lot of people ignore it and put expertise into the more commonly useful skills. This is part of why I'm thinking of lowering the DCs. 15 isn't that much easier to hit if you are looking at normal ability score numbers, and the end result is till the high level PC hitting the number about 90% of the time (needing a 4 or better)
I get your point and it is worth considering. As for stealth and/or perception being overused, IMO that is another design flaw from WotC. It seems like this would have become appearant in the playtests. I'd have to work on the numbers to determine which method I'd prefer, but on the surface I'd be open to either.

Looking over the rest of it, I'm struck that doubling movement speed for a check is very extreme. IT essentially allows for a free dash action. I do want melee fighters to be faster, but this might be too much. The other uses in jumping or lifting will likely take actions or bonus actions (jumping is tricky) but the movement speed increase would be useless if it did. IT might be better to have the first movement increase be by 1.5 then 2 then 2.5 or 15/30/45. This makes the top speed 75 or 150 with dash, but that is with a base of 30 ft.
Sure, playtesting the ideas would reveal IMO if increases felt too much or insufficient. We have a "sprint" houserule which requires a check, and depending on the increase could require either a bonus action or your action. As a sprinter in college, you are pretty focused on moving quickly--so for that level of boost requiring your action seems appropriate.

I'm not against the more impressive top-speed, I'm more looking at the value of the dash action. It is already a very under-utilized action unless you can use it as a bonus action, and I'm worried that an easy doubling of movement speed would kill it entirely, except for those classes like the rogue or monk. Which, by the way, hit monumental speeds with even a bit of tweaking.
I guess that is part of the issue, as it is Dash is under-utilized other than Rogue, etc. Few times do characters rarely Dash except in chases, which aren't that common IME. I guess the important point is to have something in place if players want to use it.

Well, you do need to remember that the "max lift" is the "pick it up, maybe stumble 5 ft with it" score, not the lift and carry score, which is generally half of the max. So, halving to ~2850, and I can see a 20th level Goliath Bear Totem Barbarian with 24 strength being capable of carrying a small car down the street.
Oh, sure, I remembered! I was more focused on the max lift for combat reasons (lifting an Ogre and tossing it off a cliff or something...).

I've honestly debated on that. What holds me back is, again, the fantasy. Orcs and Goliaths will both have powerful build, and both are classically picked by people who want to be "the strong guy" and I want people to feel like that is a legitimate choice since useful cases of strength are pretty rare compared to other scores.

I think I would be much more inclined to leave Powerful Build as race specific, but if someone was playing a human and truly wanted that extra capacity, I'd find a way for them to achieve it.
Yeah, it's a tough call, I'll admit. But while Orcs and Goliaths (and Firbolgs!) have it by default, any other race has to spend a (rather steep IMO) cost of a feat! Considering most game run to 10th or so, most PCs will get 2 or 3 feats, 4 at the outside edge.

Hmm, I did forget about them getting advantage from a subclass ability. That might change the math a bit.
Well, advantage can also be accomplished through Help, enchance ability, and other means, too. You often have to make a point of getting it, sometimes at a cost to another PC, but it isn't difficult to get IME.

Other than these "physical enhancements", what other concepts do you think would work well for a "plausible fantasy" but not "demigod gonzo" level?
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Expertise in this fashion is free-range, as long as one understands backgrounds are meant to be completely customizable!. The idea of "pay for a skill proficiency twice" gets you expertise, if you want something not on your class skill list, you'll likely have to get it from your background.

So, while some players might take Athletics, or Brawn, or whatever for more "combat reasons", getting expertise in History or Medicine (field medic anyone?) or whatever is a viable option depending on your concept of course.

Ah, trading breadth for depth. Hmm. I'd have to consider that really hard. Most characters get only 4 skills, and it would make something like expertise in Perception common for elves. I'm not sure I would want to have people getting only two skills, but each was expertise.

Partially because, as much as I love the idea of making "concepts" the truth of the matter is many players are motivated by success. A lot of people will feel a pressure to forgo getting expertise in a "concept skill" like medicine or history, or even getting the skill at all, and instead get a "better" skill.

I get your point and it is worth considering. As for stealth and/or perception being overused, IMO that is another design flaw from WotC. It seems like this would have become appearant in the playtests. I'd have to work on the numbers to determine which method I'd prefer, but on the surface I'd be open to either.

I disagree with it being a design flaw from WoTC. In a game that features combat, Stealth and counter-stealth are just immediately, obviously useful. No one needs to make any special effort to make it useful. But something like "History" or "Animal Handling" requires either a dedicated effort from the player or a dedicated effort from the DM to make it even come up once.

I'm not saying it is impossible to make these skills useful, but it requires much more thought and effort. And even if WoTC tried to make it more clear what they could be used for, it just could not make it more useful than skills that are so easily and directly applicable to two pillars of play.

Sure, playtesting the ideas would reveal IMO if increases felt too much or insufficient. We have a "sprint" houserule which requires a check, and depending on the increase could require either a bonus action or your action. As a sprinter in college, you are pretty focused on moving quickly--so for that level of boost requiring your action seems appropriate.

Yeah, I have a similar rule I call "pushing yourself" which is currently set to increasing speed by 5 to 10 ft. It hasn't seen much use yet though.

I guess that is part of the issue, as it is Dash is under-utilized other than Rogue, etc. Few times do characters rarely Dash except in chases, which aren't that common IME. I guess the important point is to have something in place if players want to use it.

Part of that I would chalk up to the cost. An action is expensive, and even if a character wants to make that distance, they may reason that only moving then dodging is better, to make them less vulnerable. Another part of it I would say is the static nature of DnD combat, which is a bear to try and change. But, once two melee characters are in range of each other, moving is not only not giving any value, but also is punished by Opportunity Attacks if you move too much. That starts getting into deep, structural changes of the combat system though. Which is a bit beyond the purview of this discussion I feel.

Yeah, it's a tough call, I'll admit. But while Orcs and Goliaths (and Firbolgs!) have it by default, any other race has to spend a (rather steep IMO) cost of a feat! Considering most game run to 10th or so, most PCs will get 2 or 3 feats, 4 at the outside edge.

Fair.

Well, advantage can also be accomplished through Help, enchance ability, and other means, too. You often have to make a point of getting it, sometimes at a cost to another PC, but it isn't difficult to get IME.

True enough. I'm not sure if I'd want the help action in terms of lifting, as much as I would want to combine lift numbers, because I'm not sure how you could help someone else exert more strength. The goal is to increase your limit after all. Sort of like how I sometimes struggle to let people use Help when someone is trying to see if they know something. It always feels a little odd.

Other than these "physical enhancements", what other concepts do you think would work well for a "plausible fantasy" but not "demigod gonzo" level?

  • Well, I really do like the sherlock holmes style "read a scene" ability I've mentioned before.
  • Mundane healing from the medicine skill seems obvious, especially a way to combat diseases and poisons without that being solely the realm of spells.
  • For Sleight of Hand, I'm always a fan of stealing something off an enemy who missed you with an attack. I actually gave Thieves a high-level ability that let them steal a weapon from an enemy that misses them with an attack, which lets you play that excellent gag of being threatened by an enemy who realizes they are holding a harmless item.
  • Extended reach might be a little gonzo, but I've often allowed people to thrown any type of weapon. I could see a check to increase the range of a thrown weapon.
  • Insight is tricky, but I could see an ability where a character could roll to get a single true fact about an NPC or a faction. I usually use insight for telling if people are lying, or sometimes to see if you can figure out where someone might have [X] if you know them. Expanding that into a more holmsian "from her [blank] you realize the Countess has touched the demonic arts at least once before."
  • Could be neat to have a performance ability where you can essentially pause the combat. You roll, and any enemy you succeed against is locked in place, watching you, while your allies are free to move. However, your allies cannot attack or cause an enemy to make a saving throw, or it breaks the performance and the battle resumes with whoever's turn was after yours (skipping everyone else)
  • I did like the idea that if a character was taking damage over time (like from alchemist fire) they could forgo rolling to get rid of the effect, and instead roll a constitution save to instead guarantee minimum damage. So, if you are on fire, and with a low dex you don't think you could put out the flames, instead you can roll con and instead of taking 3d6 damage, you take 3 damage.

I'm sure I could think of more, but this is a fine list to start with.
 


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