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D&D 5E The mathematics of D&D–Damage and HP

As I already posted, my experience in these matters is 4e D&D not 5e D&D. But what you say here is absolutely true for 4e.

The weakest damage dealer in the 4e game that I GMed was the invoker/wizard. He was probably the weakest combat character overall, too - he was also the party "skill monkey"/ritualist.

But at low levels (when he was mostly wizard) his effects like AoE daze (Colour Spray) or AoE hostile teleport (Twist of Space) and at high levels (where he's mostly invoker) his effects like AoE blindness (Glyph of Radiance) and AoE domination (Compel Action) were super strong. Even Thunderwave (AoE push) is pretty good.

At least in 4e, another relevant consideration in combat maths is who takes the damage? In our 4e game the fighter and paladin had enormous depth in both healing surges and the ability to trigger those surges during combat, and it wasn't necessarily their lack of hp/surges that would drive the rest cycle. I know that 5e uses different healing mechanics, but an important part of battlefield control isn't just action denial but also controlling who is exposed when to what sorts of attacks.

There's a lot of 4e DNA in 5e, more than many people realize. However, one of the biggest substantial difference between 4e and 5e is how many rounds a combat lasts, thus effects "swing" a combat a lot more drastically. At high levels, if the entire party gets advantage, they will typically do between 150 and 200 damage in a single round. Add a round of action denial on top of that, and your BBEG often goes down before even gets to wipe his nose.

That's a bit off. You said "There are plenty of things a wizard can do if a monster has good saves" and were asked to be specific. When you had it displayed how bad much of that specific list is you want to change your tune from "plenty of things " to something but not something that your willing to suggest or stand behind as a good option when a monster has good saves. That last condition is critical because there are a ton of monsters with energy resistance/immune along with good or great saves and/or magic resistance to give advantage on the saves.

No, I'm quite willing to stand behind all of those things (except Polymorph, since I had neglected the size of the Marilith) as good options. I'm just not really interested in parsing out point by point why I disagree with you, because you keep stating the same thing in different ways and overlooking the same things.
 

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You should be choosing spells that synergize with your allies' abilities
I mean I think you're both taking equally extreme positions here, and both equally ridiculous. Yes, it's not WoW or something where you make a build independent of other people (though tbh in the olden dayes of MMOs you did NOT do that, rather it was like you propose - you built for the group you usually played with), but equally, the idea that most players are carefully choosing spells and abilities to synergize with the rest of the party is laughable. The vast majority of people who play D&D are picking what seems cool or makes sense, not for some elaborate synergistic combination or whatever.
 

I mean I think you're both taking equally extreme positions here, and both equally ridiculous. Yes, it's not WoW or something where you make a build independent of other people (though tbh in the olden dayes of MMOs you did NOT do that, rather it was like you propose - you built for the group you usually played with), but equally, the idea that most players are carefully choosing spells and abilities to synergize with the rest of the party is laughable. The vast majority of people who play D&D are picking what seems cool or makes sense, not for some elaborate synergistic combination or whatever.
I don't think om being thst extreme in saying that the number of thumbs on The scale and sheer numbers they are applied in is overdone in 5e because on average or even a good day the results are just right around the average of the folks who dont face any of that and concentration makes it harder to step up with two or more gap bridging spells into doing anything really impressive if one has a spell list like that rather than the sort of specific metagamed lists for every possible situation encountered during an an adventuring day that would be needed to justify all of the strings red tape and hurdles fighting lfqw on their own as if they are the sole shield against the return ofangel summoner bmx biker levels of lfqw

That's his this started with the strained something and things] being used to justify the battle against lfqw being taken so far in so many pretty directions so often by wotc.
 

I mean I think you're both taking equally extreme positions here, and both equally ridiculous. Yes, it's not WoW or something where you make a build independent of other people (though tbh in the olden dayes of MMOs you did NOT do that, rather it was like you propose - you built for the group you usually played with), but equally, the idea that most players are carefully choosing spells and abilities to synergize with the rest of the party is laughable. The vast majority of people who play D&D are picking what seems cool or makes sense, not for some elaborate synergistic combination or whatever.

I don't think it's really an elaborate synergistic combination to notice by 14th level whether certain things work for your allies or not. If knocking somebody prone is a deal-breaker for your party because it relies heavily on ranged attacks, you probably noticed that some time in the last 12 months of play. If you don't have anyone in your party with a strong single attack, you probably noticed some time between 3rd level and 14th that Haste wasn't so hot. Etc.

On one hand, I say that, but, I've found that the majority of full casters have to be begged to cast something other than their Nth-level damage spell, regardless of how effective it may or may not be.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I don't think om being thst extreme in saying that the number of thumbs on The scale and sheer numbers they are applied in is overdone in 5e because on average or even a good day the results are just right around the average of the folks who dont face any of that and concentration makes it harder to step up with two or more gap bridging spells into doing anything really impressive if one has a spell list like that rather than the sort of specific metagamed lists for every possible situation encountered during an an adventuring day that would be needed to justify all of the strings red tape and hurdles fighting lfqw on their own as if they are the sole shield against the return ofangel summoner bmx biker levels of lfqw

That's his this started with the strained something and things] being used to justify the battle against lfqw being taken so far in so many pretty directions so often by wotc.
You keep on acting like people are giving Wizards every spell in their books, but the simple fact is that a Wizard gets to know plenty enough spells by level 15+ to have a very versatile arsenal to handle most situations. I don't understand why you ignore that.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I don't think it's really an elaborate synergistic combination to notice by 14th level whether certain things work for your allies or not. If knocking somebody prone is a deal-breaker for your party because it relies heavily on ranged attacks, you probably noticed that some time in the last 12 months of play. If you don't have anyone in your party with a strong single attack, you probably noticed some time between 3rd level and 14th that Haste wasn't so hot. Etc.

On one hand, I say that, but, I've found that the majority of full casters have to be begged to cast something other than their Nth-level damage spell, regardless of how effective it may or may not be.
It also amazes me we haven't talked about the most broken caster combos. Like the ones where you trap an enemy in a wall of force or forcecage and have 1 other caster use a spell that deals ongoing damage. I'm really glad it takes more than 1 caster to pull crap like that off.
 


I don't think it's really an elaborate synergistic combination to notice by 14th level whether certain things work for your allies or not. If knocking somebody prone is a deal-breaker for your party because it relies heavily on ranged attacks, you probably noticed that some time in the last 12 months of play. If you don't have anyone in your party with a strong single attack, you probably noticed some time between 3rd level and 14th that Haste wasn't so hot. Etc.

On one hand, I say that, but, I've found that the majority of full casters have to be begged to cast something other than their Nth-level damage spell, regardless of how effective it may or may not be.
You expressed a more extreme position previously. Most campaigns don't reach 14th level so that seems like a red herring.

Disagree about people noticing re: haste. Min-maxers and some forms of power-gamer will notice. Many/most D&D players will not. They're not going to math out how it isn't helping, and they're really not going to notice the inverse that you're describing.

(If I use my own main group as an example, out of seven fairly regular players, there are two, including me, who would even potentially notice that re: Haste. The biggest power-gamer actually begs for Haste-type stuff even though it's a marginal gain for him as a Fighter.)

Whereas with Prone'ing people that is likely to get noticed because it will cause mild complaints from other players.

(Again using my own group as an example, everyone would notice, indeed, they already did and people use prone more circumspectly. Most of the time. The two players who don't optimize at all do forget a lot though, bless their hearts.)
 
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FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Forcecage isn't concentration, so one caster can do it by themselves if the enemy doesn't have a way to escape.
Interesting. Takes 4 more levels than wall of force to accomplish but you are correct. I always thought it was concentration (don't play in many high level games)
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
You expressed a more extreme position previously. Most campaigns don't reach 14th level so that seems like a red herring.

Disagree about people noticing re: haste. Min-maxers and some forms of power-gamer will notice. Many/most D&D players will not. They're not going to math out how it isn't helping, and they're really not going to notice the inverse that you're describing.

(If I use my own main group as an example, out of seven fairly regular players, there are two, including me, who would even potentially notice that re: Haste. The biggest power-gamer actually begs for Haste-type stuff even though it's a marginal gain for him as a Fighter.)

Whereas with Prone'ing people that is likely to get noticed because it will cause mild complaints from other players.

(Again using my own group as an example, everyone would notice, indeed, they already did and people use prone more circumspectly. Most of the time. The two players who don't optimize at all do forget a lot though, bless their hearts.)
We had a party where 4 of 5 were primarily melee attack based. We had a battlemaster/monk/grease spell for proning. Chewed through enemies so fast.
 

It also amazes me we haven't talked about the most broken caster combos. Like the ones where you trap an enemy in a wall of force or forcecage and have 1 other caster use a spell that deals ongoing damage. I'm really glad it takes more than 1 caster to pull crap like that off.

Most broken caster combo: a caster who prepares/knows only elemental damage spells and pretty much the entire campaign is against demons. Wait, did you mean broken in a good way?
 

We had a party where 4 of 5 were primarily melee attack based. We had a battlemaster/monk/grease spell for proning. Chewed through enemies so fast.
Yeah that sort of nice obvious synergy is pretty commonly used (if rarely actively built for). Players relatively easily notice and understand Prone, or Stun, or certain other conditions. What they don't notice is subtle stuff or inverse reasoning like fearsome was mentioning. I mean, he's absolutely correct unless you have people who do big single-attack damage, Haste isn't going to be worth it in most cases, if you math it out. But most players do not. What they see is "YAY EXTRA ATTACK!" (and double move, and +2AC and so on). That to them is a pure upgrade. They aren't going to be back-comparing it with Fireball and going "Oh hmmmm actually we'd have done 100% more damage and finished the attack an entire round earlier if we used a Fireball instead..." I mean, we're talking about players who, with the best will in the world, will do stuff like cast Haste two rounds into combat...
 

You expressed a more extreme position previously. Most campaigns don't reach 14th level so that seems like a red herring.

The context of this discussion was fighting a Marilith, a CR 16 enemy, and what is good to use, so the implicit assumption here is that a party is high enough level to fight it, which is ~14th level, and is actually trying to choose good spells, i.e. isn't just farting out Lightning Bolt at enemies that resist lightning damage and have advantage to save.

The first party I DMed for had transitioned from 4e, where synergy makes or breaks a party, so they were very conscious of things like "Haste the guy who hits the hardest," i.e., the Paladin, not the Rogue. OTOH, I now have players who keep hitting fiends with fire damage and keep getting disappointed and literally never learn.
 

The first party I DMed for had transitioned from 4e, where synergy makes or breaks a party, so they were very conscious of things like "Haste the guy who hits the hardest," i.e., the Paladin, not the Rogue. OTOH, I now have players who keep hitting fiends with fire damage and keep getting disappointed and literally never learn.
Yeah I feel you on the latter lol. We have a bit of a split. What's weird is 4E totally elevated them all tactically. Something about how it was presented and so on suddenly made everyone very concerned with synergy and working together even the people who weren't normally like that. But as soon as we switched to 5E that sort of fell away again.
 

I think this goes a long way toward making full casters not feel like much compared to martials. You can be pretty brain-dead and play a martial well, and even then, I regularly see high-level rogues doing things like forgetting to hide, or Ready for when an ally gets in melee range, and doing a paltry 1d6+6 damage to a CR 13 enemy with a bucket of hit points. Despite the major simplifications since 3.x/AD&D, casters still have a much steeper learning curve to play well.
 

Despite the major simplifications since 3.x/AD&D, casters still have a much steeper learning curve to play well.
Define "well" though. I feel like what you're hinting at is more like "extremely well" or "optimally" rather than a mere "well".

Your example seems to show the precise opposite to what you're stating. One simple error from a Rogue is nerfing their damage into the floor for a round, for example. Just being slightly forgetful can completely ruin you.

Whereas with a caster, that's unlikely to happen. A caster probably doesn't forget to cast a spell. Further, positioning matters vastly less to casters. AoOs are much less likely to impact them, and so on. They have to worry about a lot less in most cases in a moment-to-moment sense.

So I think it's actually a lot more complicated than you're describing. IMHO, It's more like it's easier to be "okay" or "extremely good" as a martial, i.e. like 5/10 or 10/10 than it is with a caster, but with a caster it's a lot easier to be like 7/10 or 8/10.

On top of that it depends on the campaign heavily. You seem to be whiteroomassuming that it's 6-8 encounters/day 2 short rests perfection. If it's more like 1-3 encounters/day (which IRL, a lot of campaigns are), esp. with 1 or 0 short rests, then playing a caster becomes drastically easier, because you can pretty much spam actual levelled spells every single round. Which doesn't require much talent or effort. I suspect we would agree that being a 9/10 or 10/10 caster requires a ton of thinking/mental investment, moreso than a martial, but I think you're severely underestimating what is involved in playing a martial, especially as they often have to be more creative.
 

Yeah that sort of nice obvious synergy is pretty commonly used (if rarely actively built for). Players relatively easily notice and understand Prone, or Stun, or certain other conditions. What they don't notice is subtle stuff or inverse reasoning like fearsome was mentioning. I mean, he's absolutely correct unless you have people who do big single-attack damage, Haste isn't going to be worth it in most cases, if you math it out. But most players do not. What they see is "YAY EXTRA ATTACK!" (and double move, and +2AC and so on). That to them is a pure upgrade. They aren't going to be back-comparing it with Fireball and going "Oh hmmmm actually we'd have done 100% more damage and finished the attack an entire round earlier if we used a Fireball instead..." I mean, we're talking about players who, with the best will in the world, will do stuff like cast Haste two rounds into combat...
I think your 100% on the mark about why I panned haste. As a single target concentration spell that prevents the use of any other concentration spell it needs to seriously deliver when you run the math & as a GM I can't simply declare that concentration is gone for all spells or even a wide array of spells that don't deserve it with heavy duty theory crafting & consideration because there are probably spells that deserve concentration.

Wotc so consistently creates spells that pulls so many punches on top of concentration the resistance/immune divide magic/legendary resist & so on I didn't bother mathing things out & just took queues from the HC adventure design that has lots of awesome martial gear & rarely if at all even bothers with some casterific trinkets in my campaigns. After all, LFQW must be a serious risk if wotc is pulling out so many stops to thwart it preemptively.....

Then I ran a HC adventure for AL that if described for white room theory crafting would be laughed off as an unbelievably contrived situation that just wasn't a credible concern. Prior to DiA nobody would believe that a sane GM would devise a campaign where nearly every creature had a slew of energy resist/immune on top of magic & legendary resistance on generally lowish AC monsters & shower incredible martial focused gear with almost nothing to be found for casters. Then I played it & it was even worse than it looked from the GM side.
 

Your example seems to show the precise opposite to what you're stating. One simple error from a Rogue is nerfing their damage into the floor for a round, for example. Just being slightly forgetful can completely ruin you.

I feel like "attack whomever your clanky pal is attacking" is so basic to playing a rogue effectively that if you're still failing to do this at high level, only God can help you.

On top of that it depends on the campaign heavily. You seem to be whiteroomassuming that it's 6-8 encounters/day 2 short rests perfection. If it's more like 1-3 encounters/day (which IRL, a lot of campaigns are), esp. with 1 or 0 short rests, then playing a caster becomes drastically easier, because you can pretty much spam actual levelled spells every single round. Which doesn't require much talent or effort. I suspect we would agree that being a 9/10 or 10/10 caster requires a ton of thinking/mental investment, moreso than a martial, but I think you're severely underestimating what is involved in playing a martial, especially as they often have to be more creative.

I'm going mainly off observation. Outside of the aforementioned rogue, most martial players have One Cool Thing, and they do that cool thing a lot, and they make things die. Everyone at my table gets jealous of the Barbarian or the Ranger. By contrast, it seems casters naturally gravitate toward damage spells, and single-target damage just isn't all that great. It's okay. But if that's what you do, you're exactly what has been criticized earlier: you're a low-hp, low-AC character that does medium-to-low damage. If what you want to do is mainly blast enemies with the occasional AoE, Warlock is a far better choice than Wizard, Sorcerer, or Bard.
 

I feel like "attack whomever your clanky pal is attacking" is so basic to playing a rogue effectively that if you're still failing to do this at high level, only God can help you.
I don't think Rogues are a good yardstick and I think if you're playing a rogue solely as an "assist" to another melee you're playing a 5/10 Rogue so it doesn't really count as playing it "well" (which would be at least 7/10). That's what I'm saying.
I'm going mainly off observation. Outside of the aforementioned rogue, most martial players have One Cool Thing, and they do that cool thing a lot, and they make things die. Everyone at my table gets jealous of the Barbarian or the Ranger. By contrast, it seems casters naturally gravitate toward damage spells, and single-target damage just isn't all that great. It's okay. But if that's what you do, you're exactly what has been criticized earlier: you're a low-hp, low-AC character that does medium-to-low damage. If what you want to do is mainly blast enemies with the occasional AoE, Warlock is a far better choice than Wizard, Sorcerer, or Bard.
I don't find my 5E or 3E experience reflects this at all. I don't see casters gravitating to single-target damage spells at all. On the contrary, I see casters avoiding single-target damage spells except spammable cantrips. I mean, maybe all the casters I play with are playing "well", but given one of them willingly uses Snilloc's Snowball Swarm I'm going to go to say "probably not". For single-target stuff though it's all CC and similar debilitations (some of which also do damage but not as their primary goal), or spamming cantrips. And when they can they open up with tons of AoE spells which they're pretty strong at.
 

I don't think Rogues are a good yardstick and I think if you're playing a rogue solely as an "assist" to another melee you're playing a 5/10 Rogue so it doesn't really count as playing it "well" (which would be at least 7/10). That's what I'm saying.

All I'm saying is that getting your Sneak Attack is easy, and a player who regularly fails to do this is simply not grasping fundamentals.

I don't find my 5E or 3E experience reflects this at all. I don't see casters gravitating to single-target damage spells at all. On the contrary, I see casters avoiding single-target damage spells except spammable cantrips. I mean, maybe all the casters I play with are playing "well", but given one of them willingly uses Snilloc's Snowball Swarm I'm going to go to say "probably not". For single-target stuff though it's all CC and similar debilitations (some of which also do damage but not as their primary goal), or spamming cantrips. And when they can they open up with tons of AoE spells which they're pretty strong at.

Just goes to show how non-representative any one experience is. Most of the casters I've had looooooove damage and practically have to be tortured to drop a buff or debuff.
 

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