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D&D General why do we not have an arcane half caster?

Mind of tempest

Adventurer
No, Mr. Eldritch Knight, you do not.

I found myself frustrated with 5E’s lack of a true half-caster class, and ended up making my own. EldritchKnight, Bladesinger, and several more concepts became subclasses under it (including the chi warrior, for making a wuxia fighter and book of 9 swords-like characters).
I had some ideas for one written down somewhere and I am in a reasonable mood, should I post them?
 

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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
The problem we have always had with the idea of an arcane half-caster is that no one (even people who have tried creating their own) has been able to come up with the most important part of the class-- its story.

That's why no arcane half-caster has ever survived or ingrained itself in the collective D&D consciousness to become an actual "thing"... no one has created a thematic story for the class that puts in on par with the ranger and the paladin. There hasn't been anything for this class to hang its hat on.

I mean, what are the stories of these three classes in D&D?

The paladin is a divine half-caster, but is also a knight, a templar, a holy warrior that swears to uphold certain ideals that society finds important. They are the champions and defenders of society.

The ranger is a primal half-caster, but also a wilderness warrior, a defender of the wilds, a champion of nature that moves swiftly through it to protect it from those that would use it for nefarious deeds.

The arcane half-caster? It's a fighter that casts spells.

Yep. That's it. That has always been the "story" that people have created for the arcane half-caster. That's what an eldritch knight is. That's what a swordmage was. That's all it's ever been. And that's why no one and no edition has ever stuck with it as a class. Because it has no story, no theme, nothing to give it any heft. Nothing to make it a CLASS rather than just a multiclass of two generic classes smushed together.

If we ever want to see an arcane half-caster be a thing and become an actual class that remains in the game... we need to all agree on what its story is. Who in medieval D&D society needs to be a warrior who casts wizard spells? What do they do? What is their duty in the world? What do they believe in and fight for? And whatever it is... it needs to be an actual specific type of person on par with the ranger and the paladin. One who theme is so strong that it can support multiple variants of its story that come into play via subclasses.

The fighter, rogue, cleric, and wizard are the only four classes that get away with being somewhat "generic". But the other eight have major story, lore, and fluff connected to them. Barbarians, bards, druids, monks, paladins, rangers, sorcerers, and warlocks are just covered in fluff, and that's why they've stayed in the game. Because they are specific archetypes that the game and its players have determined they WANT to have available, moreso than just making multiclasses.

Could the game work with just a fighter/cleric multiclass for their holy warrior archetype? Sure... but people want PALADINS.

Could the game work with just a fighter/druid multiclass for their wilderness defender? Sure... but people want RANGERS.

Could the game work with just a fighter/wizard multiclass? It always has. But if you want an actual class for it now... then we need to come up with WHAT IT IS.
 
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TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
If the trope for an arcane half-caster was obvious, it would have been popularized by now. Since it's not, obviously coming up with a compelling trope is difficult.

What differentiates the arcane half-caster (AHC) from the paladin or ranger? Obviously, the main difference would need to be their spell list. What sort of spells feel "arcane" as opposed to what the ranger and paladin get? Blasty evocations? Force magic? Spatial/extradimensional magic? The fact that arcane magic in D&D is a fairly broad category makes nailing down the specialty of an AHC more difficult.

The best examples from existing media I can think of is The Witcher (one could also argue ranger for Geralt), and a host of JRPG hero types.
 


Mind of tempest

Adventurer
The problem we have always had with the idea of a arcane half-caster is that no one (even people who have tried creating their own) has been able to come up with the most important part of the class-- its story.

That's why no arcane half-caster has ever survived or ingrained itself in the collective D&D consciousness to become an actual "thing"... no one has created a thematic story for the class that puts in on par with the ranger and the paladin. There hasn't been anything for this class to hang its hat on.

I mean, what are the stories of these three classes in D&D?

The paladin is a divine half-caster, but is also a knight, a templar, a holy warrior that swears to uphold certain ideals that society finds important. They are the champions and defenders of society.

The ranger is a primal half-caster, but also a wilderness warrior, a defender of the wilds, a champion of nature that moves swiftly through it to protect it from those that would use it for nefarious deeds.

The arcane half-caster? It's a fighter that casts spells.

Yep. That's it. That has always been the "story" that people have created for the arcane half-caster. That's what an eldritch knight is. That's what a swordmage was. That's all it's ever been. And that's why no one and no edition has ever stuck with it as a class. Because it has no story, no theme, nothing to give it any heft. Nothing to make it a CLASS rather than just a multiclass of two generic classes smushed together.

If we ever want to see an arcane half-caster be a thing and become an actual class that remains in the game... we need to all agree on what its story is. Who in medieval D&D society needs to be a warrior who casts wizard spells? What do they do? What is their duty in the world? What do they believe in and fight for? And whatever it is... it needs to be an actual specific type of person on par with the ranger and the paladin. One who theme is so strong that it can support multiple variants of its story that come into play via subclasses.

The fighter, rogue, cleric, and wizard are the only four classes that get away with being somewhat "generic". But the other eight have major story, lore, and fluff connected to them. Barbarians, bards, druids, monks, paladins, rangers, sorcerers, and warlocks are just covered in fluff, and that's why they've stayed in the game. Because they are specific archetypes that the game and its players have determined they WANT to have available, moreso than just making multiclasses.

Could the game work with just a fighter/cleric multiclass for their holy warrior archetype? Sure... but people want PALADINS.

Could the game work with just a fighter/druid multiclass for their wilderness defender? Sure... but people want RANGERS.

Could the game work with just a fighter/wizard multiclass? It always has. But if you want an actual class for it now... then we need to come up with WHAT IT IS.
so what sort of things need a magic fighter and what societies would be making them?

we need places that value arcane magic a lot but also need muscle and violence?

do we have any real-world occupations that need both brains and brawn at the same time?
 

The problem we have always had with the idea of a arcane half-caster is that no one (even people who have tried creating their own) has been able to come up with the most important part of the class-- its story.
Great point.

I love the idea of an arcane half-caster, but the flavor I keep coming back to is... a rogue. A jack-of-all-trades who has some skill with a blade, some skill with stealth, some skill with words, and who complements all that with some skill in magic. So basically somewhere between an arcane trickster and a bard.

Arcane magic is magic for those who don't ask. They either rip power from the fabric of reality through the sheer force of their minds (Wizards) or simply ARE magic (Sorcerers). An arcane half-caster would be similar thematically.

If it was up to me, I would bring back the Thief as the stealth specialist and sneak attack class, while keeping the Rogue as the arcane half-caster. Less spellcasting than the 5e Bard, but a better warrior.
 

Mind of tempest

Adventurer
Great point.

I love the idea of an arcane half-caster, but the flavor I keep coming back to is... a rogue. A jack-of-all-trades who has some skill with a blade, some skill with stealth, some skill with words, and who complements all that with some skill in magic. So basically somewhere between an arcane trickster and a bard.

Arcane magic is magic for those who don't ask. They either rip power from the fabric of reality through the sheer force of their minds (Wizards) or simply ARE magic (Sorcerers). An arcane half-caster would be similar thematically.

If it was up to me, I would bring back the Thief as the stealth specialist and sneak attack class, while keeping the Rogue as the arcane half-caster. Less spellcasting than the 5e Bard, but a better warrior.
I see your conclusion but you got stuck in the triangle you need the anti-rogue the reflection or shadow being cast.
plus stealth specialists need a generic word and rogue works to well for them to give it up.
 

so what sort of things need a magic fighter and what societies would be making them?

we need places that value arcane magic a lot but also need muscle and violence?

do we have any real-world occupations that need both brains and brawn at the same time?
Eberron has aundairan knights arcane & aundairan knight's phantom plus 3.5wand adepts/5e wand slinger, not sure what 4e had. Also they had magewrights & dragonmark heirs(all with specific "races" & subraces in rising from the last war) who have a degree of innate spellcasting plus may or may not have a dragonmark focus item" for more

Someone else might have better details, but in darksun some of the elite forces under the various sorcerer kings may or may not have some degree of arcane spellcasting abilities either learned or directly granted by the individual SK they serve given the way arcane spellcasting is restricted there
 

Mind of tempest

Adventurer
Eberron has aundairan knights arcane & aundairan knight's phantom plus 3.5wand adepts/5e wand slinger, not sure what 4e had. Also they had magewrights & dragonmark heirs(all with specific "races" & subraces in rising from the last war) who have a degree of innate spellcasting plus may or may not have a dragonmark focus item" for more

Someone else might have better details, but in darksun some of the elite forces under the various sorcerer kings may or may not have some degree of arcane spellcasting abilities either learned or directly granted by the individual SK they serve given the way arcane spellcasting is restricted there
we need a place that can produce them so check.

we need functions for them to perform as in what tasks need both brains and brawn since we are looking to build a narrative for a class from nothing.

we also need the way that they are not the same thing as an eldrich knight but I have ideas for that.
 

we need a place that can produce them so check.

we need functions for them to perform as in what tasks need both brains and brawn since we are looking to build a narrative for a class from nothing.

we also need the way that they are not the same thing as an eldrich knight but I have ideas for that.
knight arcane/phantom was I believe more of an armored wizard with utility/blasting & more of a mounted cavalry version of it iirc. I don't remember if either used weapons much if at all but doubt it given how 3.5 worked. imo the big problem for EK is that so much of the class is baked into the core of the base class that it doesn't leave much room for it to develop. EK is certainly not helped by the fact that nonmagic b/p/s is almost never subject to resistance while energy types are subject to an overuse of resistance & practical nonuse of vulnerability.
 

The problem we have always had with the idea of a arcane half-caster is that no one (even people who have tried creating their own) has been able to come up with the most important part of the class-- its story.

That's why no arcane half-caster has ever survived or ingrained itself in the collective D&D consciousness to become an actual "thing"... no one has created a thematic story for the class that puts in on par with the ranger and the paladin. There hasn't been anything for this class to hang its hat on.

I mean, what are the stories of these three classes in D&D?

The paladin is a divine half-caster, but is also a knight, a templar, a holy warrior that swears to uphold certain ideals that society finds important. They are the champions and defenders of society.

The ranger is a primal half-caster, but also a wilderness warrior, a defender of the wilds, a champion of nature that moves swiftly through it to protect it from those that would use it for nefarious deeds.

The arcane half-caster? It's a fighter that casts spells.

Yep. That's it. That has always been the "story" that people have created for the arcane half-caster. That's what an eldritch knight is. That's what a swordmage was. That's all it's ever been. And that's why no one and no edition has ever stuck with it as a class. Because it has no story, no theme, nothing to give it any heft. Nothing to make it a CLASS rather than just a multiclass of two generic classes smushed together.

If we ever want to see an arcane half-caster be a thing and become an actual class that remains in the game... we need to all agree on what its story is. Who in medieval D&D society needs to be a warrior who casts wizard spells? What do they do? What is their duty in the world? What do they believe in and fight for? And whatever it is... it needs to be an actual specific type of person on par with the ranger and the paladin. One who theme is so strong that it can support multiple variants of its story that come into play via subclasses.

The fighter, rogue, cleric, and wizard are the only four classes that get away with being somewhat "generic". But the other eight have major story, lore, and fluff connected to them. Barbarians, bards, druids, monks, paladins, rangers, sorcerers, and warlocks are just covered in fluff, and that's why they've stayed in the game. Because they are specific archetypes that the game and its players have determined they WANT to have available, moreso than just making multiclasses.

Could the game work with just a fighter/cleric multiclass for their holy warrior archetype? Sure... but people want PALADINS.

Could the game work with just a fighter/druid multiclass for their wilderness defender? Sure... but people want RANGERS.

Could the game work with just a fighter/wizard multiclass? It always has. But if you want an actual class for it now... then we need to come up with WHAT IT IS.
It's not too hard to come up with stories for an arcane half-caster, though: the hexblade is an obvious one, the duskblade works for a lot of people, and the bladesinger is a neat variation (though it needs to be elf-ier to really sell it), you could build it around the idea of a spellcaster who uses a weapon as their spellcasting focus (rather than a wand or component pouch), and I would argue one of the biggest story gaps is a character who draws their power from a cool magic item they found (which sound like a warlock but then you get eldritch blast competing with the story of 'using your cool magic item' if the item is a weapon).

Admittedly, from a purely story perspective most if not all of those could easily fit into an existing class as a subclass, which seems to be the route WotC is trying to go. But in nearly every case players come back and complain that the character doesn't feel like someone who blends and balances weapons and magic - they either alternate (which isn't the fantasy, aka why paladins aren't just fighter/clerics) or they're so good at one or the other that they don't play any different from someone who isn't mixing at all (EK and Bladesinger, but not AT.)

But that means a fifth generic class. However, if it's its own class, the mechanics can be built from the ground up to support a blended playstyle, while the subclasses (which would also define their magic) can add the story, they way many classes already do. Plus, with its own class it would get its own spell list, which should push the designers to make spells that actually fit the class rather than give them a list that doesn't work because it's designed to support a totally different playstyle (a big reason why EKs don't work.)

(I'd even go so far as to say the 4e Swordmage works so well by accident - because they couldn't just say "use the wizard list" they were forced to make a Swordmage spell list, which causes the list to actually work with and promote playing like a swordmage, rather than a wizard with a decent melee option or a fighter who can sometimes self-buff.)
 

Stormonu

Legend
We do have some archtypes that we can hang on for fighter/wizards.

D&D has forever referenced itself with the elf fighter/wizard and the githyanki gish. Both strongly tie to the "Swordmage" with a sword in one hand, dressed in armor as they toss magic missiles or fireballs from the other. They use overt combat attack (and defense) and martial skill - magic with heavy leaning on the martial side. This self reference is HUGE in of itself, and enough to base the entire class simply on this.

Gandalf, at times could be seen as a fighter/wizard, leaning heavily on the wizard side of the equation with Glamdring in hand.

Jedi are clearly fighter/wizards and Star Wars has as much fantasy slant as it does sci-fi. It would be easy enough to incorporate the "warrior monk" nature of Jedi into D&D without blinking an eye.

Many of the Hong Kong wuxia films have fighter/wizards aplenty, though their magical skills are often more subdued or "personal enhancement" effects.

There doesn't need to be one unifying vision of what a fighter/mage mix needs to be - you need enough of a skeleton to hang a frame on it, and then let the subclasses do the major lifting.
 

jgsugden

Legend
I don't see the gap that needs to be filled. Regardless of the PC concept I try to come up with, I can find a class/subclass concept that serves it well.

I guess the best I can come up[ with as a gap would be a psionic spellcaster subclass of the fighter that gets a half cast, but a very limited spell list. I'd theme it on the Githyanki Knights.

Level 3: Gain the ability to cast spells as a half caster using Intelligence. You can use a weapon as a focus. You'd get mage hand (invisible version) and message cantrips. You'd learn Catapult and one spell that is either an enchantment or a divination from the wizard, sorcerer or warlock spell lists (which you could cast twice with your two spell slots). You'd gain a new spell at levels 5, 9, 13, and 17, all of which would be required to be either divinations or enchantments.
Level 7: 2 Abilities: Aberrant Mind's Psionic Sorcery benefit for a number of spells equal to your proficiency bonus per LR, and Learn one 1st level wizard spell (any school).
Level 10: 2 Abilities: Cast Tongues at Will, and Learn one 2nd level wizard spell (any school).
Level 15: 2 Abilities:, Telekinesis once per day and Learn one 3rd level wizard spell (any school).
Level 18: 2 Abilities: Plane Shift once per day, and Learn one 4th level wizard spell (any school).

You'd know 1 spell at 3rd, 2 at 5th, 3 at 7th, 4 at 9th, 5 at 10th, 6 at 13th, 7 at 15th, 8 at 17th and 9 at 18 (plus Message, Mage Hand, Catapult, Tongues, Telekinesis and Plane Shift).
 

Mannahnin

Adventurer
We do have some archtypes that we can hang on for fighter/wizards.

D&D has forever referenced itself with the elf fighter/wizard
This is the archetype that really occurred to me. It's the elf or half elf.

Unfortunately later D&D abandoned race-as-class from the Basic line, but the racial classes really had some strong mythic resonance.
 

Mind of tempest

Adventurer
This is the archetype that really occurred to me. It's the elf or half elf.

Unfortunately later D&D abandoned race-as-class from the Basic line, but the racial classes really had some strong mythic resonance.
yeah, but do you have something more focused than elf? as that does not explain thematic or story other than having pointy ears and being smug.
 

Stormonu

Legend
This is what I have been working on for my games. (Note: putting it into it's own PDF, I suddenly realized I forgot to do the 6th & 7th level spell list! You can just assume it matches the Sorcerer list for now :) ).
 

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pming

Hero
Hiya!
Personally I don't think the Eldritch Knight has quite enough spellcasting/magic to it for my liking. (((snip)))
...and therein lies the rub. ;)
At some point, which is likely different for many people, that "line" of "just enough" or "too much" magic is different. I think the EK has a more than acceptable ratio of martial to magic. It's not perfect, but hey, it's 5e; nothings 'perfect'.

I think something similar to the design of the paladin is the closest to my ideal Gish. They need to be arcane rather then divine for their spells. And a diffent flavour and abilities but something in that mix of magic and martial.
This is where I toss in the obligatory go-to response from my perspective: "Ok, so 'make' a Paladin of The Arcane who have a religious-devotion and reverence to the very forces of magic (kinda like a druid and nature). "Make a Paladin, but here's the list of Wizard spells you choose from to have in your Spell-Mantra Book. Oh, and you don't affect Undead, you affect Magical Constructs. Here's the sheet on the specifics...".

If I had the time and my PHB I'm sure I could "whip up" a "Paladin of The Arcane" in about 5 minutes for the base; then another half hour for the spell lists. Easily under an hour.

That's the great thing about RPG's with 'simplistic' rules; it's dirt simple to swap out one thing for another. This is one of the key reasons why 3e completely failed for me and my group...mostly because we couldn't remove the Feat and Multiclass systems, to be honest. Glad to see they are OPTIONAL in 5e! :)

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

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