D&D 5E Tier Benchmarks in a Level-less 5E


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Reynard

Legend
Just for giggles, let's look at 7th level characters by class and see if we can tease out any useful patterns. Note: I am going to assume +4 for primary stat bonuses and +2 for secondary stat bonuses, as well as average hit points.

Barbarian (berzerker):
Defense: 74 HP, AC 16, damage resistance BPS, Dex save Advantage
Offense: Three attacks +7 doing 1d12+6 each (Note: frenzy)
Utility: increased speed, strength check advantage, initiative advantage
Note: rage is 4x per long rest

Bard (lore):
Defense: 32 HP, AC 14, countercharm, cutting words,
Offense: 1 attack +7 doing 2d8 (cantrip)
Utility: Bardic inspiration (d8) 4 per short rest, expertise
Spells: 3 cantrips, 12 spells known, 4-3-3-1
Note: Lore bard can learn 2 of those known spells from any list.

Cleric (life):
Defense: 46 HP, AC 20 (heavy armor), blessed healer,
Offense: 1 attack +7 doing 2d8 (cantrip), turn/destroy undead
Utility: Disciple of Life, Preserve Life
Spells: 4 cantrips, all spells known, 4-3-3-1

Druid (moon):
Defense: 46 HP, AC 16, Wild Shape
Offense: 1 attack +7 doing 2d8 (cantrip), Wild Shape, Primal Strike
Utility: Wild Shape (CR 2, no flying)
Spells: 3 cantrips, all spells known, 4-3-3-1
Note: Wild Shape is doing a lot of heavy lifting

Fighter (Champion):
Defense: 67 HP, AC 20, Second wind
Offense: 2 attacks +7 doing 1d8+6 each, Action Surge, Improved Critical
Utility: Remarkable Athlete
Note: Combat styles will impact AC versus attack strength a little bit.

Monk (open hand):
Defense: 32 HP, AC 18 or 46 HP, AC 16 (dex vs con), deflect missiles, slow fall, evasion, stillness of mind, wholeness of body
Offense: 3 attacks +7 doing 1d6+2 each (1 open hand effect), stunning strike, flurry of blows, ki empowered,
Utility: speed
Ki: 7 points per short rest

Paladin (devotion):
Defense: 67 HP, AC 20, lay on hands, divine health, aura of protection, aura of devotion
Offense: 2 attacks +7 doing 1d8+6 each, smite, sacred weapon, turn unholy
Utility: divine sense,
Spells: no cantrips, all known, 4-3
Note: Combat styles will impact AC versus attack strength a little bit.

Ranger (hunter):
Defense: 53 HP, AC 18, defensive tactics
Offense: 2 attacks +7 1d8+4 each, hunter’s prey
Utility: favored enemy, natural explorer, primeval awareness
Spells: no cantrips, 5 spells known, 4-3

Rogue (thief):
Defense: 28 HP, AC 16, Cunning Action, Uncanny Dodge, Evasion
Offense: 1 attack +7 1d6+4 plus sneak attack 4d6, Cunning action
Utility: fast hands, second story work
Note: the effectiveness of sneak attack is dependent on non-mechanical issues

Sorcerer (draconic):
Defense: 32 HP, AC 14
Offense: 1 attack +7 2d8 (cantrip), elemental affinity
Utility: metamagic
Spells: 5 cantrips, 8 spells known 4-3-3-1

Warlock (blade pact):
Defense: 32 HP, AC 14
Offense: 1 attack +7 2d8 (cantrip)
Utility: 4 invocations
Spells: 3 cantrips, 8 known spells, 2 level 4 slots

Wizard (evocation):
Defense: 25 HP, AC 15
Offense: 1 attack +7 2d8 (cantrip), sculpt spells, potent cantrip
Utility: arcane recovery
Spells: 4 cantrips, many spells known, 4-3-3-1

Obviously a lot of utility and effect is being buried under "spells" and I recognize that. I do not have the wherewithal at the moment to do a true spell analysis. Sorry.

One thing i think is important to note is that the (champion) fighter just sucks, mechanically. It may be fun to play, but it throws off the benchmarking by a lot. Also, the "balance" of the rogue is hugely dependent on the GM. Some GMs let the rogue do sneak attack damage every round. In those cases, the rogue is a terrifying Cuisinart. Where the rogue has to work harder to use that ability, and the rogue quickly become underpowered.

Not that power is the most important thing. But broadly speaking, if we are trying to figure out benchmarks, it is the best we have. Based on this relatively quick analysis, the only thing I can really say is that patterns about damage output versus defense are very hard to establish. I am not convinced there is much effort made in that sort of design in 5E, which strongly suggests that it should not be a major concern when developing an alternate.
 

TwoSix

Uncomfortably diegetic
I'd want to go with the high or mid point of a Tier for HD. You could do 4 HD per Tier, for instance, that's straightforward.
I'd agree with this. Put the benchmark levels at 4, 8, 12, and 16. You can also have a "Tier 0" which is pretty much just race, background, and maybe an extra skill and/or feat, with a 1dX HD. No need for a tier 5, just let 9th level spells and such occur diegetically (drink!) in a Tier 4 game.

Making the benchmark that multiples of 4 means everyone will have their next feat/ASI baked in, since their progression is fixed.

Those HP values you have in the level 7 analysis seem a bit messy; how does the rogue only have 28 HP when the barbarian has 74?

Since trying to "balance" the utility value of spellcasting compared to other boons is, at best, a challenge and at worst a fool's errand, I would probably try to make two benchmarks, the noncaster benchmark and "pact magic and invocation" benchmark. I agree with your and Tony's statements above that the Warlock chassis is the best and most balanced caster template; I've been giving a lot of thought the last couple days into only using classes with that chassis for casters in my next game.
 

Reynard

Legend
Those HP values you have in the level 7 analysis seem a bit messy; how does the rogue only have 28 HP when the barbarian has 74?
Assumptions based on stat distribution. The barbarian assumes a high (+4) in in Non and rogue assumes no bonus in Con. Of course there can be variations of that, but generally I found it more useful to use +4, +2 and +0.
 

TwoSix

Uncomfortably diegetic
Assumptions based on stat distribution. The barbarian assumes a high (+4) in in Non and rogue assumes no bonus in Con. Of course there can be variations of that, but generally I found it more useful to use +4, +2 and +0.
Ahh, OK. Just based on what I see personally, I'd probably assume +2 for everyone except maybe fighters and barbarians, who would be +3.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I would consider looking at something like Shadow of the Demon Lord/Weird Wizard. It breaks up classes into three tiers of play (Novice, Expert, and Master) across ten levels of play. It does mix things up in terms of its level progression, but I would consider looking at it for inspiration.
 

aco175

Legend
I could see having the base shell for each type of character and then being able to choose a power or two from a list depending on class. This might just help round out the party with some stuff other classes have if the group is missing a cleric or mage, for example. It could also be to make your PC cooler if you were the only one.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I’d be tempted to take spells out and have their acquisition be diegetic :) via artifacts, scrolls, runes, research etc. The Wizard gets their Book/Staff inscribed with starting cantrips, then learns/acquires spells as they go. The Warlock has to actively engage with its Patron

The Cleric I’d look at boosting up Channel Divinity and embed more ‘powersspells

At the same time Fighters are also acquiring artifact weapons and learning new styles
 

You might look at ICON playtest rules for how they organise "these are the kinds of things your characters are capable of" by "Chapter" (that game's rough equivalent to the D&D 5e "tier"). Might have some inspiration there for benchmarking.
 


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