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Level Up (A5E) What is the vision of the high level fighter?

One of the core problems of post-TSR non-4e D&D is that there's no real vision of what a high level fighter should be. Fundamentally a first level fighter moves at a human's pace and swings a sharpened piece of metal hard and fast at enemies in arms' length to kill them. A 20th level fighter ... moves at a human's pace and swings a sharpened piece of metal at enemies in arms' length to kill them. Meanwhile the wizard has graduated from burning hands a couple of times a day to permanently shapeshifting into a dragon, creating demiplanes, and casting Wish.

This wasn't the case in TSR era D&D for multiple reasons:
  • The game was effectively soft-capped at level 9 or 10 due to the XP charts
  • The fighter as a class feature got a small army as well as lands, and the small army gave them their ability to do weird things
  • The wizard had far fewer spells known, and especially a much weaker choice of them
  • Levels didn't claim to be equal; there were different XP tracks for different classes.
It also wasn't true in 4e with its reigned in magic and fighters who could do some pretty impressive things at epic level. But it's been true in 3.0, 3.5, and 5e. And is something that could and should be fixed.

So what does it mean for the fighter to level up in Level Up? Is the fighter an inherently low level archetype?
  • The Mythic Fighter - Beowulf, CuChulain, Hercules, Roland, Outlaws of the Water Margin. The high level fighter is the demigod of mythology, able to perform ridiculous feats of strength and physical ability, leaving reality far behind.
  • The Deadly Fighter - John Wick, et al. The deadly fighter putting a sword through someone kills them dead - and none of this "hit points" nonsense that makes a high level fighter feel like they are wielding boffer swords. Instead what they hit they normally kill (literal gods may be merely discorporated) irrespective of defences, and the trick is delivering the fighter to the target. And they can also do the old AD&D trick of one attack per class level per round against weak foes to thresh their way through minions.
  • The Noble - the AD&D fighter writ large, with more troops and more elite troops as they level up. The fighter themselves is deadly - but so are their minions. Even this breaks down after about level 14 or so.
  • The Level Cap - fighters are inherently mundane and simply do not have the potential to hang with the big boys. Cap them at level 10.
This, of course, is a perfect case for Prestige Classes - at level 10 the fighter picks one of the above options as well as or instead of continuing to level up as a fighter. Possibly as a second subclass.

The rogue of course has a similar problem and needs its own discussion.
 

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vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
  • The Level Cap - fighters are inherently mundane and simply do not have the potential to hang with the big boys. Cap them at level 10.
This, of course, is a perfect case for Prestige Classes - at level 10 the fighter picks one of the above options as well as or instead of continuing to level up as a fighter. Possibly as a second subclass.

You know... was like.....''LOL no! Never!''...but then...I think, finally, you are right. There's just not enough interesting stuff for mundane to do at higher level, even worst when you spread rather average features over 20 levels (looking at you Indomitable).

Make the mundane classes (Rogue, Fighter, maybe Warlord and Barbarian) more condensed in only 10 level, let the magic ones have a slower progression toward 20 levels.
This would make mundanes better at using Prestige classes and multiclassing, having a wider spectrum of ability while the spellcaster have a deeper mastery of their thing: game-changing magic.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
Make the mundane classes (Rogue, Fighter, maybe Warlord and Barbarian) more condensed in only 10 level, let the magic ones have a slower progression toward 20 levels.
This would make mundanes better at using Prestige classes and multiclassing, having a wider spectrum of ability while the spellcaster have a deeper mastery of their thing: game-changing magic.
Or, have more generic caster classes as well from 1-10, and then have specialized caster "PrCs" after that gain powerful spells in a highly specialized field.

A multiclass system that loosely resembles SotDL's path system would work quite in a 5e clone, I feel.
 


vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
Or, have more generic caster classes as well from 1-10, and then have specialized caster "PrCs" after that gain powerful spells in a highly specialized field.

A multiclass system that loosely resembles SotDL's path system would work quite in a 5e clone, I feel.

Exactly. Anyway I always felt that 20 is way too high, considering people ''never'' play that high level and many abilities are left unused. And there's another thing: classes and archetypes' features that come at high level? They are not that powerful that a 10th level character would be grossly overpowered if you just messed a little with the damages dealt in case of attack features (not talking about 9 spells).

Have classes gaining their stuff over 10 levels (remove ASI from class progression and give them to character progression to make some place) and give more 5-levels prestige classes/paragon path. That way, a group that wants to go to 20th level can gain their full class stuff + at least 2 maxed prestige class.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
Magic needs a nerf...Or mundanes need a rather stupendous buff. Level 20 fighter should be like Doom Slayer dismembering fiends with his bare hands and healing from it.

Exactly: for high level fighters, just ''dealing a boatload of damage'' isnt enough. I hate when people argue that fighter are as good as any other class at high level because their DPR is as good (sometime better) that other class.

I say, so what? At high level, casters have a lot of button to alter the world or society around them, sprouting fortresses and walls from the ground, creating illusory regions, boosting the crops of a land, protecting a whole town from evil incursions! The fighter gets to deal a lot of damage and can re-roll a failed save one more time? The rogues gets to change 1 roll per rest to crit? Really?

Note that rogues and fighter are my favorite classes, but I dont play at high level. Were I to play a high level campaign, I'd play another class, anytime.

EDIT: one-shot-killing mooks at high level should not be ''too much asked'' it should be a bare minimum!
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
Exactly. Anyway I always felt that 20 is way too high, considering people ''never'' play that high level and many abilities are left unused. And there's another thing: classes and archetypes' features that come at high level? They are not that powerful that a 10th level character would be grossly overpowered if you just messed a little with the damages dealt in case of attack features (not talking about 9 spells).

Have classes gaining their stuff over 10 levels (remove ASI from class progression and give them to character progression to make some place) and give more 5-levels prestige classes/paragon path. That way, a group that wants to go to 20th level can gain their full class stuff + at least 2 maxed prestige class.
I'd be down for that. All 10 level base classes, with major bumps at 5 and a capstone at 10. If you want to play at level 11+, you can multiclass or take some specialized high level classes.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
What if Fighters got a new subclass at T3, and maybe also at T4.

This reflects the fact that the base Fighter fiction runs out of steam. The new fiction shows up.

---

A downside to this is that it breaks with 5e style multiclassing. But the same is true of spellcasters; a Cleric 10/Wizard 10 is a far less epic creature than a Wizard 20.

Multi-dip martial classes (gloom 3/bear 3/rogue 5/BM 6 or whatever) basically only work because the back-10 of martial classes is "hollow", and pasting together a bunch of early-class features is as good as the back-end of most classes.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
A downside to this is that it breaks with 5e style multiclassing. But the same is true of spellcasters; a Cleric 10/Wizard 10 is a far less epic creature than a Wizard 20.

Multi-dip martial classes (gloom 3/bear 3/rogue 5/BM 6 or whatever) basically only work because the back-10 of martial classes is "hollow", and pasting together a bunch of early-class features is as good as the back-end of most classes.
I think there's two general non-invasive ways to fix the issue (each of which has multiple methods to pursue).

1) Unhollow the back-end of the non-caster classes. The major difference between cleric10/wizard10 and wizard20 is that wizard20 gains a handful of potent long-rest recharge effects from a broad menu of options. (6th-9th level spells). If non-caster classes gained more potent options in the mid-teen levels on strict recharges, it would narrow the gap between the two to an appreciable degree.

2) Eliminate the back-end of all classes, and assume multiclassing. Add high-level paths available to all characters.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
It may be an hot take, but I'd also remove bonus ASI from fighters if Feats are still optional.

As for padding fighter, I'd look at making the Fighter = Warlord. Steal the features from the Banneret (shared Second Wind, Action surge and Indomitable, expertise in one skill) and spread on the fighter chassis. This + non-combat maneuvers for the base fighter would be a nice addition. Indomitable I'd change to be similar to the Brute's +1d6 to saves: it works better and it would free class level for other things.
 

Stalker0

Legend
When I heard the “fighter only gets a 10 level progression while casters get 20”, my first reaction was also “no”.

but I’m also coming around to it. I agree that you canNot make a fighter equal to a wizard by going “moar damage”, there’s just too much spellcasting has to offer.

so cutting off the fighter and saying “alright mundane is done, go pick something with pizazz” is a solid way to do it.

If you are going 20th level fighter, I think there are two paths you can take.

1) wuxia: aka book of 9 swords. Fighters effectively become spellcasters. If you can’t beat em, join em

2) Anti magic. Fighters cannot do all the fancy magic tricks, but they are the ultimate answer to them. They can cut through walls of force, reflect fireballs back at the caster, cut through summoned creatures with ease, senses that beat invisibility, they are hard to scry on, and even divination start to have trouble detecting them.

your magical power is the ability to beat magic, which is a solid niche at high levels where magic is everywhere.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
I think there's two general non-invasive ways to fix the issue (each of which has multiple methods to pursue).

1) Unhollow the back-end of the non-caster classes. The major difference between cleric10/wizard10 and wizard20 is that wizard20 gains a handful of potent long-rest recharge effects from a broad menu of options. (6th-9th level spells). If non-caster classes gained more potent options in the mid-teen levels on strict recharges, it would narrow the gap between the two to an appreciable degree.

2) Eliminate the back-end of all classes, and assume multiclassing. Add high-level paths available to all characters.
We could also fix cleric 10/wizard 10. So they gain access to some of their back-10, not just upcasted lower level spells.

Then ensure the same fix applies to fighter 10/barbarian 10. They'd gain access to some of each classes' back-10.

Then check that something like fighter 10/wizard 10 works. What back-10 access does it get access to?

(note that I mean back-10 in a fuzzy kind of way, not exactly 11 to 20. I'm talking about the issue that in last 10 levels, Wizard tiers become increasingly gonzo (Ask a god for advice 1/day? How about no-save cages on anything large or smaller? Or has a pocket demiplane, a no-save banishment. Turn into a dragon? Create a 50% copy of yourself as an action that lasts forever? Create a CR 9 ally for a month as an action? Gain advantage on everything and disadvantage on being attacked for 8 hours?), while fighters go from 2 attacks/round with action surge to 4 attacks/round with 2 action surges).

I don't think the answer is "make wizards suck". Rather, we need a narrative reason why fighters are more than "hit with stick" and "hit with stick HARDER" in tier-3/4.

A paragon path you get to pick at level 10ish, and an epic destiny you get to pick at 15ish, would do it.
 


Gadget

Adventurer
I have long espoused the idea that classes in 5e should have been 10 levels for you 'base' class, followed by choosing a paragon path/epic destiny/ prestige class that took you in a slightly different direction once you reached that stage of the the game. Most of the high level class features, with a few exceptions, could almost be swapped with lower level features to little effect; condense it down to 10 levels or so, then have the game changes in some fundamental way once you reach the next tier of play.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I wonder why fighter hero in fantasy always find a way to overcome the evil priest or wizard.

I'd say is generally a mix of plot-armor and the bad habit of evil priest/wizard to monologue instead of casting their damn spell of world-ending magnitude. :p

Maybe if A5E had a mechanic that forced spellcasters to do a 1-minute monologue before casting spell of 6+ level, explaining the why and how they cast their spell, the endgame would be balanced :p
 

Krachek

Adventurer
I'd say is generally a mix of plot-armor and the bad habit of evil priest/wizard to monologue instead of casting their damn spell of world-ending magnitude. :p

Maybe if A5E had a mechanic that forced spellcasters to do a 1-minute monologue before casting spell of 6+ level, explaining the why and how they cast their spell, the endgame would be balanced :p
All hero fighter are expert in deception!
 

renbot

Explorer
Or how about we take the players who want their character to shape-shift into a dragon, Sprout fortresses from the ground, create demiplanes, help crops grow, and encourage them to play something other than a fighter? I think making Fighters able to both withstand and dish out incredible punishment IS how they should level. If you want epic magic play a spellcaster
 

Stalker0

Legend
I wonder why fighter hero in fantasy always find a way to overcome the evil priest or wizard.

Three reasons:

1) Plot Armor. The fighter wins because he is supposed to win.

2) Low level wizards. Wizards in most fantasy are Not high level dnd wizards. They might have one “high level trick” they can pull off here or there, but they do not get the regular access to world altering magic.

3) spells vulnerable to mundane means. This is going back to my “anti magic fighter” note above. In various fantasies fighters can often counter spells . They can knock back spells with their sword, throw off domination with “sheer will”.

planar travel generally always has a path back fkr the fighter, entanglements can be cleaved away with a blade, etc
 

NotAYakk

Legend
Or how about we take the players who want their character to shape-shift into a dragon, Sprout fortresses from the ground, create demiplanes, help crops grow, and encourage them to play something other than a fighter? I think making Fighters able to both withstand and dish out incredible punishment IS how they should level. If you want epic magic play a spellcaster
I am not seeing anyone suggest that we give fighters polymorph.

Rather, from 5 to 20 wizards go from a 7d8 fireball to polymorph ancient dragon.

Fighters go from 2 attacks to 4.

Fighter attacks go from 1d12+4 to 1d12+5. To hit goes from +7 to +11.

There is a lot of room for the fighter to get cool fighter stuff from 11 to 20.
 


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