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D&D 5E Thoughts on Improving Martials


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Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Still missing
stunned
restrained
blinded
frightened
incapacitated
vulnerable to a specific damage type

slowly but surely we are heading to 4ed!
Restrained is part of Grappling, so that's covered. I'm talking about through the "Flexible" maneuver option thing.

Stunned doesn't feel appropriate for melee combat without a class feature like Stunning Fist.
Blinded doesn't feel appropriate for melee combat without a class feature, spell, or critical hit. (Deafened is right here)
Frightening someone is not a combat maneuver. Skills (Intimidate) and Spells do that kind of thing.
Incapacitated is when you hit 0HP.
Damage Vulnerability isn't something you can apply by sheer physical acumen. You don't punch someone in the sternum and make them more susceptible to acid damage.
 

aco175

Legend
Is some of the issue that 4e had several powers that fighter could do that involved an attack and condition like stun or trip? Are the conditions in 4e the same as 5e or are they a bit less in terms of handicap?

I can see some attacks like 4e introduced or make them available at 5th level where you only get one attack and then get to daze for one round or such.
 

So one of the biggest problems in 5e is how limited Martial type characters (Fighter, Barbarian, and Ranger, to a lesser degree Monk, Rogue, and Paladin) can be both in combat effects (not effectiveness) and out of combat interactions. We see this sort of thing discussed obliquely in things like Spellcasting discussion threads, often discussing how OP Spellcasters are.

5e at it's base "Attempts" to offer alternatives by allowing players to sacrifice attacks from their attack action to initiate grapples or push targets, but very little else that doesn't require a Subclass. Advanced 5e provides each class a list of potential Combat Maneuvers from which they can select a handful over the course of their leveling and have a limited number of uses per turn, creating a new, separate, economy.

What if, instead, we made it so that Combat Maneuvers (Like Grapple or Shove) didn't negate your damage potential from a given attack based on your level?

For example, a Shove attempt at level 1 could deal your Strength Modifier in damage. If you have Extra Attack, 1d6+Strength. If you gain 2 or more attacks from Extra Attack, 1d6+Str+Proficiency Bonus. (I chose 1d6 because Monks deal 1d6 with unarmed strikes at level 5, so it isn't stronger for a monk to spend all their attacks on Shoves)

A Fighter might still miss out on bonus damage from their weapon, but it would certainly make combat maneuvers more attractive. Particularly if we expand those combat maneuvers to cover additional situations, or more accurately use a simple method that can be adapted to other options, such as Dirty Tricks, Disarming targets, or Tripping them as the Player makes suggestions and the DM determines whether it's valid. (No disarming a Dragon of it's claws, for example... unless the DM is cool with lopping off limbs!)

Forced movement, temporary shutdown of Legendary Action options, removing the target's ability to perform reactions, throwing sand in their eyes to give them disadvantage on perception checks and attack rolls for a round... Lots of options for Players to creatively use the Combat Maneuver option, and potentially increase the damage die, effect, or saving throw DC through environmental actions. Such as swinging on a chandelier to "Shove" a target resulting in the target getting pushed farther, taking two dice of damage, or having a +2 higher DC for the Strength Save to resist.

This would put a bit more weight on the shoulders of martial characters who intend to do more than strike their target, but so long as the method of handling the maneuvers is simple (A saving throw or skill check against a fixed DC to avoid either the effect or the damage) it shouldn't be significantly troublesome.

You could even create Feats or Class Features that allow a subclass to explicitly use a Combat Maneuver as a Bonus Action, or possibly reaction.

Out of combat functions are trickier. And should probably be tied to individual class identities. If anyone has suggestions, I'd love to hear them. But I think I might include this general improvement to combat maneuvers in my games going forward, including those involving Advanced 5e/LevelUp play, since it has a "Combat Maneuver DC" built in to make the whole matter easier.

Bonus Points: It encourages Strength Martial Builds for people who want to do a bunch of Combat Maneuvers. Including Strong Monks.
Broadly, I think if you perused the PF 2e feats sections for the various martial characters, you'd have a pretty good starting selection.

Obviously, these are more baked in to overall PF2e's character creation methodology, and would be of varying utility between different classes, but there's a lot that could be repurposed.
 

Redwizard007

Explorer
The poor Battlemaster Fighter is standing in the middle of the room shouting, "I exist," but nobody seems to notice.

If I'm not mistaken, there are feats that players, particularly fighters, get access to that greatly enhance their options both in and out of combat (including accessto the Battlemaster maneuvers that you are trying to duplicate.) Adding more for specific effects should be trivial. Simply using the optional rules provided (i.e. feats) and adding a few more feats solves your issue spectacularly.
 

The issue IMO is that giving tactical options to martials while still providing damage will unbalance them against casters. If your group uses fewer than 6-8 encounters per long rest (which is very common, but outside of the game design), then adding these boosts helps to rebalance martials with casters. If you play as expected, however, you instead unbalance the two. The concept of allowing reduced damage with effects would be a good option for the second case, as the player can decide if the effect is worth the loss of damage.

I'll be honest, I miss the martial and skill dice from the early playtests. For those of you who don't know, fighters got a martial die that refreshed every round with various combat maneuvers that could be done with them. Rogue got a small die that was primarily used for ability checks, but also for a few combat manuevers like sneak attack. Eventually these ideas were tossed, replaced by the Battlemaster subclass and Expertise.

If you can find a copy of that playtest packet (which I've long lost), this might be the best method to achieve what the OP is looking for, adding a rage die, and ki die (plus possibly righteousness die and explorer's die if you want to boost Paladins and Rangers). Obviously you want to give enough distinct mauvers between them to avoid stepping on toes.
 


Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
The poor Battlemaster Fighter is standing in the middle of the room shouting, "I exist," but nobody seems to notice.

If I'm not mistaken, there are feats that players, particularly fighters, get access to that greatly enhance their options both in and out of combat (including accessto the Battlemaster maneuvers that you are trying to duplicate.) Adding more for specific effects should be trivial. Simply using the optional rules provided (i.e. feats) and adding a few more feats solves your issue spectacularly.
Not everyone uses feats.

That said, while this would advance tactical combat for martials who aren't the battlemaster, the battlemaster would still be the unrivaled ruler of it.

Because the Battlemaster can initiate all kinds of maneuvers on an attack roll with their weapon damage, magic bonuses, etc, then add 1d8 on top of it (increasing in level, of course). Where everyone else deals 1d6+str and gains no magic weapon bonus, no increased dice size from other sources, and no additional damage dice from things like Sneak Attack or Divine Smite because it's a combat maneuver that doesn't use an attack roll.
The issue IMO is that giving tactical options to martials while still providing damage will unbalance them against casters. If your group uses fewer than 6-8 encounters per long rest (which is very common, but outside of the game design), then adding these boosts helps to rebalance martials with casters. If you play as expected, however, you instead unbalance the two. The concept of allowing reduced damage with effects would be a good option for the second case, as the player can decide if the effect is worth the loss of damage.

I'll be honest, I miss the martial and skill dice from the early playtests. For those of you who don't know, fighters got a martial die that refreshed every round with various combat maneuvers that could be done with them. Rogue got a small die that was primarily used for ability checks, but also for a few combat manuevers like sneak attack. Eventually these ideas were tossed, replaced by the Battlemaster subclass and Expertise.

If you can find a copy of that playtest packet (which I've long lost), this might be the best method to achieve what the OP is looking for, adding a rage die, and ki die (plus possibly righteousness die and explorer's die if you want to boost Paladins and Rangers). Obviously you want to give enough distinct mauvers between them to avoid stepping on toes.
I've seen it, yeah. It's not a terrible design, but with the battlemaster as it is, now, this would absolutely either step on toes or require the battlemaster to be removed from contention.

I dunno. This is still a rough draft scenario, so maybe we can find other options to increase tactical combat.
 

pming

Legend
Hiya!
So one of the biggest problems in 5e is how limited Martial type characters (Fighter, Barbarian, and Ranger, to a lesser degree Monk, Rogue, and Paladin) can be both in combat effects (not effectiveness) and out of combat interactions. We see this sort of thing discussed obliquely in things like Spellcasting discussion threads, often discussing how OP Spellcasters are.
Simply put... I think this is all based on individual experience and play style.

In my 5e game of Genericka, for example, I've had three clerics, a druid, two warlocks and two sorcerers (iirc) (and maybe one "Fey" Paladin...for a single session? Maybe?). After that, everyone else were of the "Martial type" character classes. This is for over 6 years of play. Nobody playing any of the Martial classes ever felt "weaker" or "less effective" or that they had "less things to do outside of combat".

The reason, I think, is simple: I'm an Old School DM. I don't "build encounters/adventures" to suit my Player's Characters other than the absolute minimum (e.g., "Ok, 5 PC's, about level 3"; I don't care what races they, what alignments they have, what backgrounds they have, or what classes they are...and neither does my world). Because of this, there is a very distinct "flavour" to the whole game that simply involves all of the "3 Pillars". Averaged out, I'd say about 40% Combat, 30% RP and 30% Explore. Because of this, PC's are usually doing "stuff" that any PC can do.

Next would be that our 'style' of play is more along the line of "What would make sense for my Character to do?", and not so much "What would make sense for ME to do?". It's the equivalent of a PC caster with only 1 spell left saying "We need to press on. We don't have time to sleep right now...he's going to get away if we do, and who knows what he'll do during those 8 hours!", versus "We need to do a long rest to get spells back. Then we can cast Spells XYZ and ABC to pick up his trail; we can then deal with anything he did because we'll be at full strength". The first is purely "RP and narrative driven from a Characters perspective". The second is purely from the perspective of "We will have these mechanical things available".

Combine those things... my Old School Style DM'ing where I do not "build to the PC's" and with the Players thinking as their PC's, not as Players trying to "mechanically optimize for success", and you have Fighters being every bit as 'viable' out of combat as anyone else...and being a bit MORE viable throughout the adventuring day (because a Fighter never runs out of attacks). If I was to "build to the PC's" and I DM'ed with the assumption that the PC's were "heroes and supposed to win"...then I'd agree, and the "mechanical based decisions" would make more sense; because the Players would know that the bad guy would 'pause' his bad-guy plans as the PC's rested for a day. Or at least, nothing REALLY bad would happen...because "that would be unfair to the Players". Hogwash to that I say! If the Bad Guy needs 4 hours to unleash the Undead Plague Vial into the towns water supply, and the PC's decide to take a long rest before they confront him...well...that's bad news bugbears to that poor town! :( And yes, before you ask... No, the Players do not need to know they have a 4 hour 'time limit'. That's the ENTIRE POINT of why my players would likely decide to push on, despite lack of spells/abilities; because they KNOW that the world/adventure isn't "built around them"...ergo, they wouldn't take the risk.

Wow. That was a long way to say: "I disagree. I think the usefulness of any Class is primarily based on the DM's style".

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 


Libertad

Adventurer
A bit of a shameless promotion, but Spheres of Might is a great system for making martial (and casters too in Power's case) feel more versatile and customizable. It's an effects-based system, meaning that the classes, spheres, etc are focused around "what does this do?" and lets you flavor the material appropriately. As opposed to making the system being like "you're a paladin, you can't use transformation magic due to your spell list" and such. Classes and subclasses still make a difference in how they play, but spheres that represent fighting styles and magical traditions are effectively open to all.

 

ECMO3

Adventurer
So one of the biggest problems in 5e is how limited Martial type characters (Fighter, Barbarian, and Ranger, to a lesser degree Monk, Rogue, and Paladin) can be both in combat effects (not effectiveness) and out of combat interactions. We see this sort of thing discussed obliquely in things like Spellcasting discussion threads, often discussing how OP Spellcasters are.
I think this is only a problem for the few people who post here and insist it is a problem. It apparantly is not a problem for the hordes that buy d&d and play fighters.
 


The first problem is a problem. They only become great damage dealers if you use a specific set of feats which are an optional system by core rules. And even those of us DMs who do use feats sometimes say "No GWM, No SS". I've also -had- this problem at my table, where fighter types feel like their only option is to stand in melee and hit a target in the face, repeatedly, with no real and meaningful choices.
Isn't the solution then NOT to ban feats and to allow characters to use the options in the book?
If you tie someone's hands behind their back you can't whine about them being unable to juggle

If the fighter's player feels like their only option is to stand in melee and hit a target in the face repeatedly THEN THEY SHOULDN'T PLAY A FIGHTER. Or, crazy thought here, play the Battle Master fighter and get powers
If someone hates managing lots of spell slots and reading through dozens of spells every level to pick the best option then they shouldn't play a wizard. The solution isn't to make the wizard simpler and less complex
It has even caused problems when the party needs to do something (Like get through a door in order to have a chance at survival) because the party's fighter-type just stops moving and starts swinging instead of working toward the group's actual goals. Autopilot play, essentially.
You can't fix bad players making bad decisions with more rules
As to "The best condition is dying"... Meh. If your entire game is based exclusively around maximizing metagame that's it's own separate issue. This is meant to increase options, not completely replace martial combat with "Everything you're already doing, plus a whole lot more!" as that would be much more likely to create significant balance issues. "Shoving Tokens" is useful for making sure your party members can avoid opportunity attacks, knocking enemies off cliffs, removing disadvantage from ranged attack rolls... the list goes on.
And the Shove action is already in the game. You can already do that in place of attacking.
But no one does because dealing damage with the sword is more effective

If you want more mobile and dynamic encounters, add more things to your campaign that reward knockback
It's also much cooler to swing in on a chandelier than stand in front of a guy and trade punches until someone falls over.
Then swing on the goddamn chandelier
What's stopping you? The absence of a Chandelier Swing power?
If you want more interesting battles the DM needs to PUT IN THE WORK and make interesting battlefields. With cliffs and chandeliers
Like it's great that Fighters can get bonuses to a couple of skills every few levels, but I feel like there needs to be more than that. More than just increased skill use. Mainly because Martials are much less likely to have decent bonuses to out of combat skill use (Due to their ability-score placement preferences) compared to Wizards who -also- gain out-of-combat knacks for exploration and stuff in the A5e system.

But the best I can think of is explicitly allowing Martials to use Strength for Investigation Checks instead of Wisdom as they "Toss a Room". Literally flipping tables and yanking out dresser drawers to make a big mess. Which could work, I guess? But it just feels so very -narrow-.
The problem here seems to be that because the fighter can't minmax Investigation it's not worth even doing. They won't be optimal, but a fighter should be able to get a +1 or +2 bonus into a mental stat easily enough. Plus proficiency
With 5th Ed's flat math, they're only 10% less likely to succeed with a 13 rather than a 16, and a good roll will make all the difference
I disagree with @Disgruntled Hobbit about 0 HP being the be all end all. I mean, it technically is. However, if I only need to sacrifice 1 or 2 points of damage to trip a creature and gain advantage on every subsequent attack, that's well worth the trade off. Advantage will more than likely pay back the lost damage with interest, and even if it doesn't, that damage loss only matters if you fail to kill the target by 1 to 2 HP (you could just as easily overkill the creature by a few hp, rendering the "sacrifice" moot).
Shove is already in the game. Sacrifice an attack to prone opponent then attack while they're prone
But people don't because giving up a full attack is too high a cost
Because 0HP is the be all end all
As for what martials can do out of combat, I would look to heroes of legend. Maybe the fighter has a knack for turning a tavern room of wary strangers into friends who are happy to share a pint and a rumor. Maybe they can perform feats of superhuman endurance, like running for an entire day or diving for an hour with a single deep breath. Not OoC per se, but maybe after X amount of time using a weapon, it functions as a magical weapon simply based on the martial's legendary stature. At high levels, martials could probably make impossible leaps (which also helps deal with flying opponents).
Why can't the fighter turn a tavern into friends already? Do Persuasion checks and roleplaying not exist? Couldn't that be an extension of the Folk Hero's feature Rustic Hospitality?
Running for an entire day sounds cool. But it's useless unless they want to leave the party behind. Martials can already generally travel farther than other classes because they can make the Con Saves for a Forced March. And the Champion already gets a jump boost. No one every remembers they have it.
This isn't true. It's "Unless you can push a creature into something where the effect does more than the difference between the damage and that of a full power attack." The 4e at will fighter attack "Tide of Iron" wasn't the most damaging of the at will attacks but it wasn't far off - and it included a push in addition to the normal baseline damage.
And what does pushing a target 10 feet actually do?
In 4th Ed it worked because creatures could only step 5 feet without taking a reaction. In 5e they'll just circle around the fighter to where they were.
Unless there's a pit or a brazier or a pool of slime, pushing a creature is just shuffling tokens on the board. It's the illusion of doing something cool
 

Nope. I've seen it IRL.

The thing is that at low level fighter-types are fine. No one truly cares that the fighter's stabbing people while the wizard moves up from firebolt and burning hands to fireball. Both are cool in their own way and do different but related things. And the casters have few enough spells that the non-casters can keep up.

It's when the wizard starts restructuring things that there are problems. To me the spell that marks the beginning of the end is Wall of Stone. It's when the wizard gets the ability to make permanent changes to the environment and to do useful things that can't be matched at all under lightly pressured conditions. (Under heavily pressured ones skills work and dead is dead - things just differ as to how).

So for most of the single digit levels things are fine and the rogue and fighter get excellent features at level 11. It's really when the levels hit the teens that we have problems. Most games do not, however, go that far.

But this is entirely independent from the issue:
  • Some people like mechanically simple characters and others like mechanically complex and tactical ones
  • Some people like martial characters and others like spellcasters
  • The people who want to play characters that are both martial and simple and the people who want to play characters that are both castery and complex are fine
  • The people who want to play simple spellcasters tend to gravitate towards the warlock although this could be made better
  • The people who want to play complex tactical fighters struggle.
This thread is about that last group.
They exist
People who like the idea of spellcaters but hate complexity also exist. And people who hate complexity but the party needs a healer
Should we make the wizard and cleric much, much simpler then?
 

Hiya!

Simply put... I think this is all based on individual experience and play style.

In my 5e game of Genericka, for example, I've had three clerics, a druid, two warlocks and two sorcerers (iirc) (and maybe one "Fey" Paladin...for a single session? Maybe?). After that, everyone else were of the "Martial type" character classes. This is for over 6 years of play. Nobody playing any of the Martial classes ever felt "weaker" or "less effective" or that they had "less things to do outside of combat".

The reason, I think, is simple: I'm an Old School DM. I don't "build encounters/adventures" to suit my Player's Characters other than the absolute minimum (e.g., "Ok, 5 PC's, about level 3"; I don't care what races they, what alignments they have, what backgrounds they have, or what classes they are...and neither does my world). Because of this, there is a very distinct "flavour" to the whole game that simply involves all of the "3 Pillars". Averaged out, I'd say about 40% Combat, 30% RP and 30% Explore. Because of this, PC's are usually doing "stuff" that any PC can do.

Next would be that our 'style' of play is more along the line of "What would make sense for my Character to do?", and not so much "What would make sense for ME to do?". It's the equivalent of a PC caster with only 1 spell left saying "We need to press on. We don't have time to sleep right now...he's going to get away if we do, and who knows what he'll do during those 8 hours!", versus "We need to do a long rest to get spells back. Then we can cast Spells XYZ and ABC to pick up his trail; we can then deal with anything he did because we'll be at full strength". The first is purely "RP and narrative driven from a Characters perspective". The second is purely from the perspective of "We will have these mechanical things available".

Combine those things... my Old School Style DM'ing where I do not "build to the PC's" and with the Players thinking as their PC's, not as Players trying to "mechanically optimize for success", and you have Fighters being every bit as 'viable' out of combat as anyone else...and being a bit MORE viable throughout the adventuring day (because a Fighter never runs out of attacks). If I was to "build to the PC's" and I DM'ed with the assumption that the PC's were "heroes and supposed to win"...then I'd agree, and the "mechanical based decisions" would make more sense; because the Players would know that the bad guy would 'pause' his bad-guy plans as the PC's rested for a day. Or at least, nothing REALLY bad would happen...because "that would be unfair to the Players". Hogwash to that I say! If the Bad Guy needs 4 hours to unleash the Undead Plague Vial into the towns water supply, and the PC's decide to take a long rest before they confront him...well...that's bad news bugbears to that poor town! :( And yes, before you ask... No, the Players do not need to know they have a 4 hour 'time limit'. That's the ENTIRE POINT of why my players would likely decide to push on, despite lack of spells/abilities; because they KNOW that the world/adventure isn't "built around them"...ergo, they wouldn't take the risk.

Wow. That was a long way to say: "I disagree. I think the usefulness of any Class is primarily based on the DM's style".

^_^

Paul L. Ming
You name an important concern about all these mess on class balance. Time.
Full caster are evaluated like they were always full slots available. Which is in my experience pretty rare. Of course past a certain level Party can usually rest when they want, but like you say the world continue to spin, and consequence may strike.
 

Redwizard007

Explorer
Ok, thinking back over the ridiculous things martials have tried to get away with over the years and things from the edition-that-must-not-be-named I came up with a few off the wall ideas you may want to kick around.

Using melee weapons (or shields) to attack at range. Probably 15/30 range.

Screwing with armor. Maybe giving advantage on the next attack or vulnerability to physical attacks for a turn.

Distracting or dazing a target so they lose their reaction.

Forcing movement. Not just a shove, but pulling or lateral movement.

Head shots to blind or deaffen.

Arm shots to grant disadvantage on their next attack.
 

They exist
People who like the idea of spellcaters but hate complexity also exist. And people who hate complexity but the party needs a healer
Should we make the wizard and cleric much, much simpler then?
That's one thing the warlock is for at the moment. But there's no complex fighter at all - and the battlemaster is still simple.
 

theCourier

Explorer
Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG has a very simple mechanic to implement most of what would be considered "combat maneuvers." Warriors gain a "Mighty Deed Die" which is a d3 but increases to a higher dX as the character levels. They can use that d3 each attack (or round, depending on how you Judge) to not only add to their to-hit bonus AND damage bonus, but to accomplish Mighty Deeds such as shoving, disarming, swinging from place to place and attacking, etc. and on a roll of 3+ the Mighty Deed succeeds. Lets martials do all sorts of cool combat moves without getting too into mechanics so you pretty much just have to keep it reasonable enough for your character's capabilities but otherwise it's fair game.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Shove is already in the game. Sacrifice an attack to prone opponent then attack while they're prone
But people don't because giving up a full attack is too high a cost
Because 0HP is the be all end all

Why can't the fighter turn a tavern into friends already? Do Persuasion checks and roleplaying not exist? Couldn't that be an extension of the Folk Hero's feature Rustic Hospitality?
Running for an entire day sounds cool. But it's useless unless they want to leave the party behind. Martials can already generally travel farther than other classes because they can make the Con Saves for a Forced March. And the Champion already gets a jump boost. No one every remembers they have it.
The proposal is to allow fighters to deal damage AND trip. Sure, if it's damage OR trip, the tradeoff might not be worth it. But if you're only sacrificing one or two points of damage in exchange for advantage on the rest of your attacks, and possibly even other party members' attacks, that's absolutely worth it. You'd have to be math illiterate to refuse that deal in a great many circumstances.

Sure, anyone can make friends with tavern folk. Just like anyone can survive in the wilderness. But a ranger can survive better than most characters. This proposal was for a fighter who can do that to a tavern. As for jumping, what I was proposing was a bit more than the couple extra feet a Champion gets.
 

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