D&D 5E [+] Ways to fix the caster / non-caster gap


As long as i get to be the frog
The premise of the thread is: in D&D 5E there is a caster / non-caster gap and casters dominate non-casters.
So the question is: what specifically can D&D 5E do to fix this problem?

The two obvious broad solutions are varying degrees of nerf the casters and buff the non-casters.

Cool. But how?

1. Rework all the stupidly overpowered spells for their spell level. (Especially the lower level ones like shield, absorb elements, silvery barbs).
2. Martial defenses (AC and all saves) need to scale with class level. (I'm thinking +1 at each level cantrips scale). This prevents casters from being as good with armor as martials.
3. The skill system needs completely reworked. There's only a handful of skills that matter from level 1-20.
3. Martials in general need their level 11+ abilities completely reworked - they get far to little at those levels.
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad


As long as i get to be the frog
For everything that casters can currently do that seems problematic, the rulebook could have a section with secular solutions.

Teleport? Well here's how much it costs to charter a boat or hire a guide.

Scrying? Spy network.

Stuff like that.
I like the idea of non-magical options, but the guaranteed existence of such things is boxing the DM's worldbuilding into too tight a box for me. Some advice on worldbuilding to include such things where they make sense and draw the players attention to them would be the better approach IMO.


As long as i get to be the frog
Thanks for the responses so far. Rather than quote everyone or make a dozen replies, here's one with a few broad responses.

Mundane equivalents. While that is a good idea in general, it doesn't solve the problem. Taking 1 action and burning a spell slot to achieve what would otherwise take 100s of gold or weeks to months to accomplish can't really be balanced against each other. Besides, there's nothing stopping the wizard from spending 100s of gold or weeks to months to accomplish those same things. So focusing on that isn't a buff to martials in any real sense.

Expanded martials. While I really love the idea, there's only so far you can go before you get into explicitly magical territory and, unfortunately, there are a lot of people who are resistant to the idea of magical martials. I don't agree, but I get it. So taking the martial as far as possible while keeping them non-magical is something I'd like to see done. Trouble is, at best you could only get within striking distance of the wizard this way, not actually reach parity.
IMO, we aren't going to bridge that gap in a single step, it's going to take a combination of multiple things. Expanding Martials is a piece, so is providing more non-magical solutions. Also, casters need some nerfs as well.

Even with all that - Will martials ever do everything spells can do? No! There is going to remain an asymmetry there. At best martials need compensated for in other ways.

Take three spells as an example. Fly. Even expanding the fighter to near-magical proportions, the closest you could get to fly would be something like the monk's wall running. As long as you end your turn on a flat surface or somewhere you can hold on, you can run along surfaces. But that still falls short.
Sure. Though I think there's alot of wizard spells that appear to do alot more on paper than they do in the actual game. Teleport and fly being the best examples. The simple fact is the game with a wizard that can cast fly or teleport is simply going to unfold differently than a party without a PC that can cast fly or teleport (assuming fly or teleport even mattered at all in the first place).

This problem gets worse the higher level you get. There's just no way to balance wish against anything a fighter could do.
Wish is a once per day resource. There are lots of ways to balance that.


As long as i get to be the frog
I for one never minded magic items being important, and felt making them otherwise was and continues to be a mistake in WotC 5e.
Agreed. Magic items do alot to shore up the martial/caster differences in my experience. Strong Magic Weapons, some defensive items and something for mobility when needed like winged boots make for some spectacular fighters. Technically Casters get magic items too but i find them much more often used on items that grant spells or more slots. Wands of magic missile/web/fireball/etc. Staffs of healing, etc.

If anything weighting the magic items more toward martial ones helps alot too. In 5e's system, martials should probably get 1 more attunement slot than casters (in universe it can be explained that too many atuned magical items can interfere with casting).


As long as i get to be the frog
Sure, I'm not saying it gets one all the way to addressing the thread title. But it feels like it gets us closer?

Especially if most games don't get passed 10th level and/or a sizeable chunk of players want to stop before it's a team of Dr. Strange, Wanda, Thor, and Captain Marvel.
I don't like one game covering that broad a range. Personally I don't want to start as a peasant, work my way up to being Captain America and then continue to progress to being captain marvel. That's simply not any fiction i've ever read. Though that does seem to often be the case when it comes to wizard fiction.

That's probably why marrying martials and wizards into one game has never worked the greatest.


As long as i get to be the frog
A more flexible solution -

Detail the range of hero each level or tier is meant to represent. Advise DM's that most worlds should be level capped far below level 20. Then leave up to the DM or module to determine the heroic scope of the campaign.

If this was called out in the game books and handled correctly, I could see it working very well.


As long as i get to be the frog
My favorite solution is basically scratch all our current classes and create about 10x classes that are more specialized. This greatly tones done on most of the flexibility of the current uber casters. More specialization for martials means they can actually focus on interesting abilities instead of having highly generic abilities.

*Thought I seen someone mention this solution but couldn't find it on 2nd pass through.


Druid of the Invisible Hand
The Psion class in 3.5 and PF1 (via Dreamscarred Press) has a default class spell list, and then additional spell lists that are (mostly) only accessible to their respective specialists. Make such specialization mandatory wherein each Wizard has one specialist school-- make other arcane traditions into a second subclass axis-- and two gannonbanned prohibited schools like what "prohibited school" used to mean.

The same can be applied to Clerics and Druids and Sorcerers and Warlocks, I think.

I am perhaps biased, but I think a big problem with martial-caster balance in WotC D&D has always been the saving throw math. Give all PCs/NPCs half proficiency in non-proficient saves, give non-caster and half-caster PCs proficiency (or even A5E-style expertise dice) in more saving throw categories.

Give non-casters and half-casters more skills, and Skill Unlocks that allow them to do more with their skills than spellcasters, and resist the urge to extend the same benefit to spellcasters. Likewise, consider the Fighting Style mechanic and ask if it could be given more to do for non-spellcasting characters.
Last edited:


WRT a resource that martials could use, it could be something like Adrenaline. There are real world stories of people performing superhuman feats due in large part to adrenaline, such as mothers lifting cars off their children or people getting themselves out of situations after suffering injuries that should have left them incapacitated or dead.

In a fantasy world, IMO, that could and should be dialed to 11 (or higher) at high levels. A high level barbarian might use Adrenaline to kick the a castle gate so hard that it tears off it's mounting and flattens the guards stationed behind it. That would be awesome, and it would certainly leave the lord of the castle shaking in his/her boots.

A potentially better approach would be to call it something else that combines adrenaline with an indomitable spirit (for example), so people don't insist on silly topics like how does a ranger use their adrenaline to calm the charging bear.

Not unlike how a person mimicing a wizard's words and movements would be unsuccessful in casting the spell, martials could train their bodies to produce potent adrenaline on command. So when folks ask why a fighter can't use their Deathblow ability again today, it would be because they require the surge of power that comes from adrenaline, and their body needs time to recover before it can produce more.

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Death Knights' aren't martials, they have a 20-die fireball (even in 2e, where the spell was capped at 10 dice!).
Oh, I don't believe its possible for a high level martial to exist without supernatural abilities in a form I'd want in my game. It would require you either radically redefine what "mundane" means, or that you go narrative, neither of which are acceptable options to me. At some point you have to flip that switch.

If other people want to advocate for that, that's fine.

An Advertisement