I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what kinds of magic I would like in D&D Next. I even started a thread on “How would you like your wizards?” in hope of seeing if there was an iconic D&D wizard the same way there’s an iconic D&D cleric.
And the answer I got the most was kind of surprising: “I don’t care as long as it’s balanced”. And then it hit me, what the hell is this balance they are talking about? Is it all classes dealing roughly the same damage? At the same time, I keep hearing, “I don’t want fighters to be boring infinite sword swings”. So let's give the fighter some tactical options. So now we have a fighter that is resilient, deals decent damage and has tactical options. And since we want class balance, that means that classes that are less resilient need something to compensate. Classes should be balanced around at least three principals: “resilience”, “damage” and “tactical options“. You could also add “attack reliability” and “out-of-combat utility” in the overall balancing scheme.
So with this design goal in mind, let’s get back to the wizard. What are suitable mitigating factors for a wizard?
Traditionally, you have 2 factors: crap armor/low hit points and spells can be interrupted (2nd edition style). So that was both “resilience” and “reliability”.
Which of these factors would you keep? How much are these mitigating factors worth?
Do you guys want “glass cannons”? In other words, would you like to see classes such as a specialist wizard that can trade a lot of resilience for a lot of damage, even more damage than your rogue?
Should wizards get all these utility spells that a lot of people hate so much to compensate for these weaknesses?
Should wizards get significantly better “crowd control” spells to compensate?
Any of the above as class options: each wizard has a limited spellbook and depending on his choice of spells, a wizard will be more “tactical options”, “out-of-combat utility”, “damage” etc… But wizards can’t be all of these at the same time.
Another option would be to do it like in 4th edition where the wizard is a lot more resilient than in the other editions and can’t be interrupted. 4th edition wizards had to trade something for it: their versatility and the spell effects that wreak havoc.
Anyways, do you have an opinion on all of this?
Don’t bases your answer on your 3rd edition experience! None of what I just said applies to that edition; the mitigating factors were a fraud in that edition! With magic items that increase Constitution, hit points mostly come from Constitution, so you barely had the “low hit point” factor. You also had a lot more cheap items that increase your armor class so low armor wasn’t even true anymore (glamored mithril shirts, glamored mithril bucklers, seriously?). Your spells were mostly Standard actions and only required a pathetically easy Concentration check to check so you had no interrupts. And on top of that, your spells had an increased chance to succeed because the DC of your spells increased faster than monster saving throws (up to 80%-100% if you target the weaker saves). Basically spells were more reliable than ever. So 3rd edition removed all the mitigating factors with spells significantly better than fighter attacks... Great class balance here!
I also intentionally omitted one mitigating factor: the daily resource aspect. I don’t think that giving a class more daily powers is a good enough reason to give them crappie at-will. I would much rather have all classes with equal at-will options and something class-specific to compensate for the mitigating factors (extra damage to these at-wills through sneak attacks for a rogue; daily spells that deal 30%-40% more for wizards because they have shite hit points and armor; etc...). It makes class balance easier. And each set of at-wills/encounter powers option will have different tactical combat options.
Edit: I removed some part about people wanting fighters to be gods. I didn't realize some people might take offense. I didn't mean it as an attack but as an introduction on how to make classes balanced against one another.