On mechanical engagement versus descriptive scale, and the figher/wizard conundrum.

Reviewing a couple of recent fighter-versus-wizard threads, it occurred to me that there are a couple of axes along which the "power" of a class can be described that are typically conflated in such discussions, but are actually totally separate - or, at least, readily separable - things.

The first axis is a matter of mechanical engagement - in the sense of "how much do I have to fiddle with the rules to get things done?". In old-school D&D, the fighter is a low-mechanical-engagement class - often to the point that the only action the fighter can perform that the rules actually address is "I hit it with my sword!" - while the wizard's spell selection exposes a high level of rules fiddling.

In principle, this isn't necessarily a bad thing: maybe you have different players who prefer different levels of mechanical engagement. The problem is twofold: firstly, if you want to run a game where very class demands an equal level of rules fiddling, you can't do it at the low end of the scale, because the wizard starts at moderate and just goes up from there. Secondly, it pigeonholes the low-mechanical-engagement players into playing fighters, and the high-mechanical-engagement players into playing wizards.

Certainly, the solution that's customarily proposed, giving fighters powers/exploits/whatchamacallits in order to provide a mechanically engaging fighter experience is a start, but it only gets us halfway; it lets us do an even-footing game at the high-engagement end of the scale, but not the low-engagement end, and while it opens up the fighter to players who prefer high mechanical engagement, those who prefer low mechanical engagement are still locked out of playing wizards.

To my mind, a complete solution would involve not only a high-mechanical-engagement version of the fighter, but also a low-mechanical-engagement version of the wizard. In short, I think we need an "I cast magic missile!" version of the wizard to complement the "I hit it with my sword!" fighter.

The second axis is a matter of descriptive scale. Conan the Barbarian and Cu Cuchulain are operating on completely different levels, but there's no particular reason that they couldn't be represented in the same mechanical framework. Similarly, fictional wizards are all over the map scale-of-effect-wise, but that doesn't necessarily mandate a different magic system for each. The "hero's journey" model of D&D complicates matters somewhat, but there's still a point where classes top out; traditionally, the fighter tops out closer to the down-to-Earth end of the scale, while the wizard caps out in the moderate-to-high-mythic region.

Again, there's room for different classes operating at different levels. Some groups may have no problem with wizards turning cities to glass, but find fighters single-handedly slaying armies to be a verisimilitude breaker. As long as everybody's on the same page, that's fine and dandy. As with the level of mechanical engagement, however, you run into issues on the descriptive scale front if you want to flip things around or put every class on an even footing.

The low end is easier to handle, since you can mostly achieve a descriptively down-to-Earth wizard by carefully restricting spell selection. It's not a simple matter of spell level, though; a low-level spell can still be extremely powerful in a descriptive sense. For fighters, though, the basic game's strong emphasis on mechanical resolution in combat means that a mythic-scale fighter requires at least some mechanical tinkering: no fighter is going to be slaying an army in any session of reasonable length if he has to resolve it one goblin at a time.

As in the previous case, the comprehensive solution here is twofold: both mythic-scale fighters and down-to-Earth-scale wizards are required. The challenge is getting to the former without significantly upping the crunch level, and supporting the latter without requiring the GM to carefully scrutinise each individual spell.

Putting this all together, we've got eight basic possibilities:

1. The low-mechanical-engagement, down-to-Earth-scale fighter.

2. The low-mechanical-engagement, down-or-Earth-scale wizard.

3. The low-mechanical-engagement, mythic-scale fighter.

4. The low-mechanical-engagement, mythic-scale wizard.

5. The high-mechanical-engagement, down-to-Earth-scale fighter.

6. The high-mechanical-engagement, down-to-Earth-scale wizard.

7. The high-mechanical-engagement, mythic-scale fighter.

8. The high-mechanical-engagement, mythic-scale wizard.

Now, it's easy to imagine what #1 and #8 look like, because that's basically how the old-school classes operate. What's the best way to allow for the others, though? What would they even look like?

Thoughts?

(Note: I am aware that some of us object to the notion of mythic-scale fighters and such on general principle. Please consider your objections pre-emptively noted. ;) )
1. The low-mechanical-engagement, down-to-Earth-scale fighter.

To my mind, this should look like at least some famed warriors from our own history - Finnish sniper Simo Häyhä took "I shoot him with my rifle" and made an entire career out of it. The mechanical payoff for level advancement should simply be increased accuracy and lethality with one's weapon of choice.

2. The low-mechanical-engagement, down-to-Earth-scale wizard.

This is the ideal slot for a truly non-Vancian sorcerer class. A natural pyrokinetic, perhaps, whose default response to pretty much everything is "I set it on fire". Perhaps they can 'arm themselves' with a gradually increasing repetoire of effects, and perform those effects better and faster, but the scope is still similar to the fighter's choice of weapons, feats, etc.

3. The low-mechanical-engagement, mythic-scale fighter.

This could well use the same underlying mechanical build as #1, but with feats and specialisations to allow for colossal death blows, repeated follow-up attacks, and so on. Such a warrior might not be as good at going toe-to-toe with mid-level enemies as #1, but could feasibly slay an entire regiment of low-level mooks, or (depending on build) hamstring giants.

4. The low-mechanical-engagement, mythic-scale wizard.

This is where I see the warlock fitting in. Supported by a loyal familiar (a genie, a devil like Mephistopheles, etc), the warlock calls on cosmic forces, but never builds up a long list of mechanically-defined spells. Instead, the warliock's player takes risks commensurate with the character's level, and the DM adjudicates the outcome in accordance with some table of maximum results. In combat, the warlock probably stays back while the familiar spirit fights.

5. The high-mechanical-engagement, down-to-Earth-scale fighter.

This is where a martial arts specialist build should go. An expert fencer, kendo master, or bare-knuckle fighter. Here we see feats that grant extra effects for particular moves, parrying bonuses, and so on.

6. The high-mechanical-engagement, down-to-Earth-scale wizard.

Wizards in this mould might be more like artificers or scientists - they can use their spells and powers to create things, to provide power sources, to break and mend. The effects they produce are powerful at high level, but still resemble what we expect from science and engineering in our own world.

7. The high-mechanical-engagement, mythic-scale fighter.

This is where we find anime-style fighters, who yell the names of their styles and moves as they leap 20' into the air to disembowel their foes. Complex, taxing powers which can yield single-hit kills if done correctly, superhuman sprinting and leaping, perhaps even stunning shouts and punching the ground to produce tremors.

8. The high-mechanical-engagement, mythic-scale wizard.

This is where we find the big-hitting sword-and-sorcery wizards. Walls of fire, people turned to stone. If anything, I'd tone down the pure-attack spells to make this version more balanced. The utilities here ought to be awesome and legendary enough that they can still end or simplify a combat if done right - there's no need for dozens of flavourless "everyone takes 10d6 damage of type X" effects.

I think that these can all be balanced, providing #1 and #2 get to hit hard enough, fast enough at high levels, and #4 operates within clear guidelines that allow for some DM fiat, without just telling the DM to wing it completely.

Z.
Sure, I'll take a whack at this before I go to bed.

2) is the warlock from 3.5, and you could even tone that down a little bit if you so desire.  Some magical effects there, but mostly self-buffs and simple resolutions - like the combat maneuvers that anyone could pick up from feats.  You could also just re-skin a fighter, describe the sword as your shocking grasp and your crossbow as a magic missile spell, while your mage armor has all of the properties of full plate.

3) is Kratos.  Just give him area-effect weapons and he'll be mowing down armies in no time.  You could even describe them in the traditional spell format (15-foot cone), although conforming that to a daily-use system might be kind of hard.  You'd need Fatigue Points or something.  Alternatively, you could just re-skin the 3.5 dragon shaman, so that the breath weapon is your chain-blade-thingy, although handing out at-will area-effect abilities to anyone wearing armor (or with high hit points) has always been frowned upon.

4) is an exercise best left for someone who is not still awake at 3 am.

5) is just the fighter from 4E (similar to the warblade in late 3.5).  Tons of specific maneuvers, none of which were all that much more powerful than a full-attack, but still took much longer to resolve.

6) then, is the 4E wizard.  Unless I missed something, he won't be turning cities to glass any time soon.

7) is ... another one I'm going to skip, because I'm tired.

The metagame is not the game.



1.
The low-mechanical-engagement, down-to-Earth-scale fighter.
Low level fighter

2. The low-mechanical-engagement, down-or-Earth-scale wizard.
Low level warlock or sorcerer

3. The low-mechanical-engagement, mythic-scale fighter.
High level fighter

4. The low-mechanical-engagement, mythic-scale wizard.
High level warlock or sorcerer


5. The high-mechanical-engagement, down-to-Earth-scale fighter.
Low level Warlord/Monk

6. The high-mechanical-engagement, down-to-Earth-scale wizard.
Low level Wizard

7. The high-mechanical-engagement, mythic-scale fighter.
High level Warlord/Monk

8. The high-mechanical-engagement, mythic-scale wizard.
High level Wizard

One thing that people have to finally get is: "I attack" mundane man cannot exist at high level in D&D without DM assistance. 75% of obstacles are too great after a certain point. Sure if the DM selects the easiest basic nonspellcasting monsters and the simplest of traps and puzzles, they might be able to survive. But one intelligent dragon or balor given free foam or one hurricane or earthquake and reroll your PC because Simple Sword and Basic Blast are both dead.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

I don't think descriptive scale is just a matter of character level. In some editions of D&D, a 1st-level wizard is calling demonic beasties up from Hell to assault his foes, while a 20th-level fighter is still just I -hit-it-with-my-swording, one target at a time, with perhaps a bit more damage to show for it. Certainly, character level can used to address descriptive scale, but your post already addresses the problem with that approach: you can easily end up with viability problems on one end of the scale or the other.

I don't necessarily agree that simple classes are inherently non-viable against high-level threats like dragons and such, though. I think you're mixing levels of mechanical engagement there - presuming that the dragon's mechanical options are not also limited to variations on "I attack".

Plus, on the mythic end of the descriptive scale, the problem can take care of itself. Fighter versus a hurricane isn't a problem if the hurricane is a valid target for "I hit it with my sword". Wink
If the fire breathing flying spell casting giant scaly monster sits on the ground and just bites, I'm out.

Sure some of the high level monsters can be just big groundbased brutes, but many aren't. And a simple non-mythical character has no way to deal with them outside of bribery or DM assisted actions.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

True, but that's a separate problem. Throwing down-to-Earth-scale parties up against mythic-scale opponents is going to require some finagling no matter how you slice it, but that's an issue distinct from that of accommodating the types of characters that would allow for such a matchup to happen in the first place. Note that nowhere in the topic post did I mention making sure that all the variations are "balanced" (whatever that means).
Ok, so assuming that characters of different scale will NEVER interact with each other:

1. The low-mechanical-engagement, down-to-Earth-scale fighter.
- AD&D fighter, wholesale.

2. The low-mechanical-engagement, down-or-Earth-scale wizard.
- 3.5 Warlock, mostly with just Blast Invocations.

3. The low-mechanical-engagement, mythic-scale fighter.
- Take the AD&D Fighter and add a large scaling to other checks, such as dexterity, strength, and con checks. Just enough to break solid stone walls by level 10+.

4. The low-mechanical-engagement, mythic-scale wizard.
- Warlock with stronger, better scaling, and more invocations.

5. The high-mechanical-engagement, down-to-Earth-scale fighter.
- Take just about everything available to level 1-10 4E Fighters, Knights, Slayers, and maybe Battleminds in one pile.

6. The high-mechanical-engagement, down-to-Earth-scale wizard.
- A slightly more limited level 1-5 Wizard in 3.x.

7. The high-mechanical-engagement, mythic-scale fighter.
- Take the Martial Adepts, and adjust their attacks to near-spell levels of power and variety.

8. The high-mechanical-engagement, mythic-scale wizard.
- 3.x Wizard.
Here's the real problem:

These cannot all fit in the same game. Period.

It just won't work, it never will work.

You want to make things better? Here's what you do:

1) Lower the overall complexity level of the game to a level close to 2nd edition AD&D, but make the complexity less about fiddly things (spell memorization, ect.) and make decisions you make more important and engaging.

2) Make as much complexity as you can tactical in nature, rather than anything else - that is to say, the hard part is making decisions as you play, not on your character sheet or in preparation, and have them be interactive decisions.

The truth is, in all my years of playing, I've never found a system that was too SIMPLE. That is to say, even in as simple a system as the one I use in the introduction to RPing game that I corun with a friend with a fluctuating group of about 20 people, the people who like complex systems STILL have fun with it, while the people who don't like complex systems can actually play it.
The truth is, in all my years of playing, I've never found a system that was too SIMPLE. That is to say, even in as simple a system as the one I use in the introduction to RPing game that I corun with a friend with a fluctuating group of about 20 people, the people who like complex systems STILL have fun with it, while the people who don't like complex systems can actually play it.

I actually have. d20 Microlite. I had fun for a little bit, but there just wasn't enough depth to make it interesting to me. Sure, you probably could tell a good story in it, but you could do that in any system.

I like it when a system is simple enough to be built on top of, with house-rules and optional rules, but I want it to be sound enough, that building rules around it isn't the same as building a whole new game. If I wanted to build a new game, I'd finish the Magic: the Gathering RPG I was working on.

I am currently raising funds to run for President in 2016. Too many administrations have overlooked the international menace, that is Carmen Sandiego. I shall devote any and all necessary military resources to bring her to justice.

Sure some of the high level monsters can be just big groundbased brutes, but many aren't. And a simple non-mythical character has no way to deal with them outside of bribery or DM assisted actions.




Such as??
Here's the real problem:

These cannot all fit in the same game. Period.

It just won't work, it never will work.

Sure, but so what? If D&D Next is serious about the whole modularity thing, we really can have the best of both worlds. No GM running a truly modular game is going to be using every module all at once, so it's totally acceptable for some options to be incompatible or mutually exclusive.
@CCS

Down to earth, simple characters can't handle dragons, balors and other strong demons, pit fiends and other strong devils, noble eladrins, powerful undead like liches, strong fey, and practically every other monster with over 60HP or 10HD that is not a giant, animal, magical beast, humoniod, or monstrous humanoid in the past 2 or 3 editions without the DM assisting them.

1s and 8s can't play the same game by default.

Unless everyone is okay with not using 1/3 of the Monster Manual because someone is playing a "I attack" bound to reality warrior, it wont work. Joey is playing a fighter, scratch all the flying or incorperal monsters with damage resistance, spells, or high carrying capacity.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

@CCS Down to earth, simple characters can't handle dragons, balors and other strong demons, pit fiends and other strong devils, noble eladrins, powerful undead like liches, strong fey, and practically every other monster with over 60HP or 10HD that is not a giant, animal, magical beast, humoniod, or monstrous humanoid in the past 2 or 3 editions without the DM assisting them. 1s and 8s can't play the same game by default. Unless everyone is okay with not using 1/3 of the Monster Manual because someone is playing a "I attack" bound to reality warrior, it wont work. Joey is playing a fighter, scratch all the flying or incorperal monsters with damage resistance, spells, or high carrying capacity.



Or just, you know, make sure the fighter gets some nice magic items occasionally (yes, that means the DM has to work!) and that, from a design perspective, the spells aren't stupid overpowered (by reworking Magic Resistance, spell interruption, time to memorize and so on).

"Lightning...it flashes bright, then fades away.  It can't protect, it can only destroy."

Mythic scale vs down to earth scale should definitely be a campaign specific thing. You can't have someone expect to be a down to earth fighter when you plan the campaign to involve a lot of flying incorporeal mobs. Just like you can't have a Wizard be able to cast mass overland flight when sailing over a lava lake is 50% of your campaign.

This is actually something that needs more attention IMO. To me, 4e felt like low fantasy in comparison to 3.5, despite the fact that it's probably a bit more magical fluff wise. The reason I want God of War / Devil May Cry / Anime style Bo9S martial fighting is so it can keep up with crazy magic. I want to be way on the mythical side of things in my game. A martial stance that allows one to walk on any liquid surface (including lava and acid unharmed) is almost a given for the kind of game I want to run. I would also be perfectly fine with this being a module.


Or just, you know, make sure the fighter gets some nice magic items occasionally (yes, that means the DM has to work!) and that, from a design perspective, the spells aren't stupid overpowered (by reworking Magic Resistance, spell interruption, time to memorize and so on).



No. Design and developement work should be an option for the DM, not a requirement.

Or just, you know, make sure the fighter gets some nice magic items occasionally (yes, that means the DM has to work!) and that, from a design perspective, the spells aren't stupid overpowered (by reworking Magic Resistance, spell interruption, time to memorize and so on).



No. Design and developement work should be an option for the DM, not a requirement.


And also assumes the Wizard doesn't have access to magic items, or the Fighter is always getting a lot more magic items than the Wizard.

Or just, you know, make sure the fighter gets some nice magic items occasionally (yes, that means the DM has to work!) and that, from a design perspective, the spells aren't stupid overpowered (by reworking Magic Resistance, spell interruption, time to memorize and so on).



No. Design and developement work should be an option for the DM, not a requirement.


And also assumes the Wizard doesn't have access to magic items, or the Fighter is always getting a lot more magic items than the Wizard.



Spell costs handles that pretty nicely among other things.  The ridiculous drop in the cost of scribing spells was one of the first big problems I saw in 3.x.  That subsumes much of the 'apportioned wealth by level', particularly if the wizard wants to know/have huge quantities of spells.  Likewise, giving free spells -of the players choice- was foolish.  All of these combined to make the terrible spell outcome of 3.5; the number of problems, spellwise, was ridiculous and they all had to be accounted for.  HOWEVER, that doesn't mean that the answer is just to trash the whole casting system.  It means look back to when spells worked just fine and figure out what changes wrought what results.  Like the example of Forcecage you mentioned earlier -- in 2E, it still had no save (which was kinna silly, but...) and could be brought down by a simple dispel magic.  It also allowed an MR check, and Magic Resistance back then was a straight percentage -- if a creature had 50% magic resistance, you rolled d% and if you rolled under a 50...the magic rolled like water off a duck's back harmlessly.  And, just to -memorize- forcecage took a 1,000gp diamond.  Too many people thought that MR and high saves at high level (a fighter had a roughly 90% chance to pass a spell save back then at high level) made it too 'unfun', and they trashed the whole idea for something that ruined -everyone but the wizard's- game.  It's part of the reason I don't consider 'unfun' to be an excuse for -anything-.

"Lightning...it flashes bright, then fades away.  It can't protect, it can only destroy."


Or just, you know, make sure the fighter gets some nice magic items occasionally (yes, that means the DM has to work!) and that, from a design perspective, the spells aren't stupid overpowered (by reworking Magic Resistance, spell interruption, time to memorize and so on).



No. Design and developement work should be an option for the DM, not a requirement.



Making sure the fighter can fight a flying creature (ie, putting in a magic longbow, or a dagger of flying, or something similar) is part of the DM's -job description-.  If you can't be bothered to make up a couple magic items for the fighter to find, please...stop ruining the game for players.  It's not 'design'. 

"Lightning...it flashes bright, then fades away.  It can't protect, it can only destroy."

I completely believe the scale should be decided by the character`s level. Why not? 

Want down-to-earth game? Don`t go beyod level 8 or so. Want epic stuff? Start at level 15 and beyond. Why would you make a class inherently "not-so-awesome" than another? Isn`t THAT levels are supposed to mean? A measure of your awesome/epicness? If not, what do they mean in first place?

If we address scale by level, we make the same class operate on multiple scales (at different times, of course). That solves the "can`t be on the same table" problem, and it`s really nothing new.

In terms of mechanical attachment, yes a (balanced) low-complexity Fighter can kill a dragon. Since scale is addressed by level, he`s a powerfull Fighter. Just throw an arrow to the dragon`s eye (high-level = loads of damage, among other things) or, if you`re pure melee (most archetypal epic warriors have bows too but whatever), defend against the dragon`s breath with your shield/terrain/reflex/armor/faster-than-damage regeneration until the dragon is forced to melee you. Or throw your sword for extra awesomeness (it comes back if it`s magic, or you can just have many mundane ones). Or take a gigantic leap if the rules allow. Or get one magic item (so it`s posible at high levels on low-magic campaigns, even if the wizard gets most items) that allows to take gigantic leaps, fly for short periods, teleport or whatever you want.

Really, it`s all a matter of getting enough power-balance and varied-enough classes. 
Okay, I'm going to address the OP's list, but only one of the eight, because it is (one of) the most contentious, (possibly) the most derided, and (therefore, IMO) the most important...

7. is Beowulf.  Not an anime warrior or something equally newfangled; no, Beowulf, a "mythic-scale fighter" with an actual mythic precendent 1000 years old or more.  He battles seamonsters while in the middle of a swimming race, in full armor, in stormy weather on the high seas.  Barehanded and unarmored, he fights Grendel, a monster who's killed countless seasoned warriors without breaking a sweat (basically a troll or an ogre in D&D terms, if not something far worse), and rips Grendel's whole arm off.  Recall that a substantial portion of D&D's roots lie in Tolkein's lore; and the roots of Tolkein's lore lie heavily in Beowulf, and in other such tales.  Maybe you could make a case for painting him more as a "3," but if Beowulf and the mythic-scale fighter don't belong in D&D, I don't know what does.

"I want 'punch magic in the face' to be a maneuver." -- wrecan

Okay, I'm going to address the OP's list, but only one of the eight, because it is (one of) the most contentious, (possibly) the most derided, and (therefore, IMO) the most important...

7. is Beowulf.  Not an anime warrior or something equally newfangled; no, Beowulf, a "mythic-scale" fighter with an actual mythic precendent 1000 years old or more.  He battles seamonsters while in the middle of a swimming race, in full armor, in stormy weather on the high seas.  Barehanded and unarmored, he fights Grendel, a monster who's killed countless seasoned warriors without breaking a sweat (basically a troll or an ogre in D&D terms, if not something far worse), and rips Grendel's whole arm off.  Recall that a substantial portion of D&D's roots lie in Tolkein's lore; and the roots of Tolkein's lore lie heavily in Beowulf, and in other such tales.  If Beowulf and the mythic-scale fighter don't belong in D&D, I don't know what does.




Not really. Beowulf is mythic, but low-mechanic-engagement. He doesn`t have tons of powers, stances or whatever, so he`s actually number 3. An anime-ish Fighter still represents number 7 better.
Eh..I don't like the term "anime-ish Fighter", because it's usually used by people who insist that real-world combat is anime.
Eh..I don't like the term "anime-ish Fighter", because it's usually used by people who insist that real-world combat is anime.



By "anime-ish" I mean characters with specific high-profile attacks and the like. Also, since we`re talking about mythic scale, it shouldn`t resemble real combat anyway.
1) Every aspect of a character (race/class/background) should be DM-neutral. The DM should not have to do additional work strengthening or weakening a character aspect in a basic game than the amount spent on any other character. The game should assume equal treasure, equal gold, equal magic items, and sensible tactics and targeting of the monsters as long as player follow the basic guidelines.

2) Class 1 and Class 2 do not match up with D&D's traditional high level. Level 10+ is all mythical fantasy. No normals allowed unless part of an army. In order to cpntribute there they need to become mythic, the obstacles will have to ebe toned down (by the DM), or they need to be favored (by the DM).

3) Many fans hate Forced DM Favoritism in the core design of the game. I am one of them. If I want to give each player 1 magic item, I should be able to do so and maintan balance of spotlight betweene them.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

2) Class 1 and Class 2 do not match up with D&D's traditional high level. Level 10+ is all mythical fantasy. No normals allowed unless part of an army. In order to cpntribute there they need to become mythic, the obstacles will have to ebe toned down (by the DM), or they need to be favored (by the DM).

In theory, yeah, character level is supposed to encapsulate descriptive scale, but I don't think the mechanics have ever particularly borne that out. In some editions, with the right spell selection a wizard can be pulling some pretty mythic tricks right from 1st level, while the fighter may never get there at all. To reiterate, I don't necessary think that this is a bad thing (for reasons outlined in the topic post), but it definitely encodes some pretty specific assumptions about how the game's setting works, and those assumptions may not hold true at any given table.

As an aside, in addition to Beowulf, I'd offer Samson, Gilgamesh, Cu Cuchulain, Orlando, and Lancelot du Lac as examples of pre-"anime" mythic-scale fighters. Actually, not just Lancelot - the whole pre-Malory Matter of Britain is a good source for that sort of thing. Some of the abilities attributed to Arthur's various companions before the stories were cleaned up in the late 15th Century are downright bizarre.

Had a long reply to this, but digressed too much.  Basically a fighter defined by her inner will vs a fighter defined by her gear explanation in how you applied it to the believability of your epic level characters in five paragraphs.  Then three paragraphs of how they'll likely balance fighter/wizard in Next.

All that fun aside, it really just comes down to how much the mortal body is capable of in a world where dragons, wizards, and deities have been known to brush elbows with each other?  The stuff our world's fighters of legend accomplish takes place in a world where the same legends' denizens are true afterall.

If 'as close to reality' is your goal, then you either restict the wizard to be equal in power to the fighter, or give the wizard a notable weakness as a sacrifice for their power, or don't have wizards/magic/manifested deities in your game at all.  Since the game is about mass availability, it will instead default with fighters being just as 'special' as wizards in terms of power potential so that everyone can enjoy playing whichever class they want and have fun/be competative.

I'm all for inclusive design, and favor their always being an appropriate or acceptable explination, either simple or complex.  If all else fails, "A Wizard did it."Wink
Not really. Beowulf is mythic, but low-mechanic-engagement. He doesn`t have tons of powers, stances or whatever, so he`s actually number 3. An anime-ish Fighter still represents number 7 better.

Actually, I added mention of "3" to my comment before I realized anyone had even responded to me (guess I should refresh page more often).  I suppose Beowulf doesn't explicitly have a lot of different "stances" etc. but he does display/use multiple different fighting styles -- which could, in theory, still be modeled using "fighter type 3" if you make the low-mechanical engagement fighter equally good at every kind of combat, including unarmored/unarmed.  However, I'd still argue against any archetype being labeled "anime-ish" or being overtly associated/compared to anime-style characters, as I feel that carries a distinct flavor (or even stigma) that "archetype 7" (or any other) doesn't have to represent.  Sure, mythic-scale fighters, whether 3 or 7, can represent spiky-haired dudes with swords bigger than they are, but let's not go out of our way to make that the default.

"I want 'punch magic in the face' to be a maneuver." -- wrecan

Not really. Beowulf is mythic, but low-mechanic-engagement. He doesn`t have tons of powers, stances or whatever, so he`s actually number 3. An anime-ish Fighter still represents number 7 better.

Actually, I added mention of "3" to my comment before I realized anyone had even responded to me (guess I should refresh page more often).  I suppose Beowulf doesn't explicitly have a lot of different "stances" etc. but he does display/use multiple different fighting styles -- which could, in theory, still be modeled using "fighter type 3" if you make the low-mechanical engagement fighter equally good at every kind of combat, including unarmored/unarmed.  However, I'd still argue against any archetype being labeled "anime-ish" or being overtly associated/compared to anime-style characters, as I feel that carries a distinct flavor (or even stigma) that "archetype 7" (or any other) doesn't have to represent.  Sure, mythic-scale fighters, whether 3 or 7, can represent spiky-haired dudes with swords bigger than they are, but let's not go out of our way to make that the default.



Cu-Cuhlaine... look up Celtic Martial Feats...  

 
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

Not really. Beowulf is mythic, but low-mechanic-engagement. He doesn`t have tons of powers, stances or whatever, so he`s actually number 3. An anime-ish Fighter still represents number 7 better.

Actually, I added mention of "3" to my comment before I realized anyone had even responded to me (guess I should refresh page more often).  I suppose Beowulf doesn't explicitly have a lot of different "stances" etc. but he does display/use multiple different fighting styles -- which could, in theory, still be modeled using "fighter type 3" if you make the low-mechanical engagement fighter equally good at every kind of combat, including unarmored/unarmed.  However, I'd still argue against any archetype being labeled "anime-ish" or being overtly associated/compared to anime-style characters, as I feel that carries a distinct flavor (or even stigma) that "archetype 7" (or any other) doesn't have to represent.  Sure, mythic-scale fighters, whether 3 or 7, can represent spiky-haired dudes with swords bigger than they are, but let's not go out of our way to make that the default.



Cu-Cuhlaine... look up Celtic Martial Feats...  

 



Or Cei before he became Kay and got nuetered. Able to heat the whole camp with his hands, Bedewyr. Just look up the Welsh national poem (I can never remember the spelling if I don't have the book handy, Mabdingonen is close).
Now, it's easy to imagine what #1 and #8 look like, because that's basically how the old-school classes operate. What's the best way to allow for the others, though? What would they even look like?

Thoughts?

First of all, very well-thought-out and on the money.   


Putting this all together, we've got eight basic possibilities:

I wonder if we need something between down-to-earth & mythic?  There is, for instance, a big difference in power between the 3.5 caster and the 4e caster, yet the 4e casters are in no way 'down to earth.'  Is there an 'utterly broken beyond description' /beyond/ mythic, or an 'Heroic' between down-to-earth and mythic?



What would they even look like?



1.
 The low-mechanical-engagement, down-to-Earth-scale fighter.
The 1e AD&D, pre-UA Fighter.

2.
 The low-mechanical-engagement, down-or-Earth-scale wizard.
Never been done.  No, even the 3.5 Warlock was not on this scale.  Something like it or the 4E Elemental Sorcerer, maybe, but toned down in power and versatilty.

3.
 The low-mechanical-engagement, mythic-scale fighter.
A sufficiently magic-item-dripping post-UA/2e TWF quisinart of doom fighter, maybe a little short of the mythic-scale, but in that direction.

4.
 The low-mechanical-engagement, mythic-scale wizard.
Warlock.

5.
 The high-mechanical-engagement, down-to-Earth-scale fighter.
3.x Fighter

6.
 The high-mechanical-engagement, down-to-Earth-scale wizard.
Never been done.

7.
 The high-mechanical-engagement, mythic-scale fighter.
4e martial classes come close.

8.
 The high-mechanical-engagement, mythic-scale wizard.
magic-user or wizard of any edition.


True, but that's a separate problem. Throwing down-to-Earth-scale parties up against mythic-scale opponents is going to require some finagling no matter how you slice it, but that's an issue distinct from that of accommodating the types of characters that would allow for such a matchup to happen in the first place. Note that nowhere in the topic post did I mention making sure that all the variations are "balanced" (whatever that means).

I've had two very different ideas about that.  One, if you want to mix characters of different power levels it should be done up-front so everyone knows what they're getting:  Who's the Hero of this Piece.   The other idea was to put radically different power levels in different 'Tiers of Play,' while the could be mixed - the mechanics would work - the disparity would be pretty extreme, and the assumption would be either having a whole campaign in one Tier, or progress from one Tier to the next.

 

 

Oops, looks like this request tried to create an infinite loop. We do not allow such things here. We are a professional website!



(Note: I am aware that some of us object to the notion of mythic-scale fighters and such on general principle. Please consider your objections pre-emptively noted. ;) )



Nice post.  Would you also note that some of us object to the notion of down-to-Earth Wizards.  I find it interesting that a being that can use magic, at any level, would not be considered supernatural. 

Tolkien was able to convince us that a group of 1s could hang out with the 8s.  I am good with that. 

I wonder the destiny of D&D had Aragorn faced the Balrog instead of Gandalf.  Or Gandalf taken out Smaug instead of Bard the Bowman and his Black Arrow.  Nah, I don't feel like I can trade in the epic tale for the bag of balance.

Something that every 8 should worry about.  Overconfidence.  Some 8s just can't see the little 1s carrying their ring.

"The Apollo moon landing is off topic for this thread and this forum. Let's get back on topic." Crazy Monkey



Making sure the fighter can fight a flying creature (ie, putting in a magic longbow, or a dagger of flying, or something similar) is part of the DM's -job description-.  If you can't be bothered to make up a couple magic items for the fighter to find, please...stop ruining the game for players.  It's not 'design'. 



A magic longbow doesn't assure that the fighter has something interesting to do. If I'm playing the fighter, here's what I can do:

1) Highlight the "ranged attacks" section of my character sheet.
2) Give my character sheet to another player.
3) Leave the room.
4) Make a drink.
5) Consume the drink from (4).

And guess what? My fighter does exactly as well in my absence as he would have otherwise. I don't have an interest in that simple of a game. I want a game in which knowing something about one's character matters nearly all of the time, or else I may as well stay home and drink in wretched solitude, without the distracting clatter of dice in the background. The more we define "contributing to an encounter" as "being able to roll to hit every round," the farther we get from my goal of a game in which player decisions matter.

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

Eh..I don't like the term "anime-ish Fighter", because it's usually used by people who insist that real-world combat is anime.


Even worse, it usually is used by people who think anime is a genre.

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

Sure, but so what? If D&D Next is serious about the whole modularity thing, we really can have the best of both worlds. No GM running a truly modular game is going to be using every module all at once, so it's totally acceptable for some options to be incompatible or mutually exclusive.


The problem is that this is utterly impossible. Its not a matter just of balance; its also a matter of time and cannibalism.


The whole modularity idea that they have is just not going to happen. It sounds pretty - oh so pretty - but in reality you have to make decisions. Monster design is dependent on character design, and balance is dependent on what characters can do. Throwing a 2nd edition goblin at a 4th edition character is boring and doesn't work well. So either they write two monster manuals, or half the monster manual isn't going to work for one module or another.


Moreover, for those who remember TSR, when TSR tried this sort of thing - making a million campaign settings, trying to make specific products for tons of different competing lines - TSR died.


Its not a viable business strategy and its not a viable design strategy.

Don't get your hopes up. 

I have a few thoughts on it (and sorry if I repeat anybody, but I haven't read all the responses).

First off, the mythic-scale Wizard is an intrinsic balance problem with the system since essentially NOBODY else measures up. In earlier versions, that was due to a variety of things, but most commonly because no other combination of abilities at a class's disposal could match the sheer versatility of what a high level Wizard could accomplish. More than that, the right set of spells would typically make any high level Wizard better at any specific task than any other class, even those who's supposed focus was to be the best at that task. What typically set a wizard apart most wasn't the Fwakoom-boom spells, it was those that offered control over their target, their environment, or other utility.

Now, I'm not saying that for the game to be good the above must be changed. It's a matter of perspective there. I'm just recognizing it for what it is.

A very big step toward making the Fighter more comparable to the mage in terms of complexity of options in a fight would be to offer them a combat maneuver mastery perk, similar to what the rogue has in regard to kill checks.

I don't remember exactly how it worked in 4e (only played it a few times, wasn't a fan), but in 3e, a fighter needed a separate feat to either make each possible maneuver effective, or in some cases to do it at all.

Instead, let Fighters default to attempts to trip, disarm, grapple, and so on without penalty (and in some cases maybe with added bonuses) without having to sink significant portions of your level-up budget into being competent at them.

In heavily mechanic oriented games, I've found that those types of maneuvers are often of limited value in very high end games, but letting a fighter perform them without investment does two thing:

#1) offers greater mechanical complexity early game, without significantly increasing damage throughput.

#2) Leaves room for a great deal more maneuvers, abilities, and powers that scale better, without leaving the character short on combat options in the meantime.
The problem is that this is utterly impossible. Its not a matter just of balance; its also a matter of time and cannibalism.



I don't really agree. I won't deny that it does make it more difficult, and no I don't think it's generally advisable to design a game with rules that are either mutually exclusive or incompatible, but they don't have to be.

Case in point, GURPS has tons of "optional rules" that don't invalidate other game content, but add further complexity if it's wanted by the GM/Players.

With a set of simple character creation and advancement rules and a complex set, there is no reason for the two to be incompatible.

We're not talking about a 2e character and a 3e character. The simple and complex rules would be mechanically identical. The only difference is that with the simple rules, the majority of the decisions and options the advanced rules present are chosen for you instead of by you. An advanced rules character should have the option to build identically to a simple rule character, thus they're perfectly compatible and technically balanced. Custom characters will excel in certain situations and likely have weaknesses in others, compared to the simple version, but that's all.

Consequently, there's no reason for two sets of monsters.

Now, whether or not it will happen I can't say for sure, but there's no reason why the "complex" rules can't be included in the two or three core books like they say. There will of course be more books later with extra content, extra options, extra rules, etc (it's the nature of every game), but if they keep everything you need in the basic books, then those also become equally optional.

I'm not saying that it WILL happen, or even that it's likely to (I haven't been real impressed with what the D&D team has cranked out in the last 15 years or so, compared to many other design teams), but for the first time in about 15 years, it sounds to me like they're at least TRYING to go in the right direction, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt for a little while longer.
The problem is that this is utterly impossible. Its not a matter just of balance; its also a matter of time and cannibalism.



I don't really agree. I won't deny that it does make it more difficult, and no I don't think it's generally advisable to design a game with rules that are either mutually exclusive or incompatible, but they don't have to be.

Case in point, GURPS has tons of "optional rules" that don't invalidate other game content, but add further complexity if it's wanted by the GM/Players.



This is a great case in point. GURPS is a mess. GURPS tries to do everything, but as a result, it does nothing well. It is the best system for running really weird crossovers, but that's about it. Its a niche system.

GURPS also isn't much like D&D.

With a set of simple character creation and advancement rules and a complex set, there is no reason for the two to be incompatible.



I explained why in the above post.

We're not talking about a 2e character and a 3e character. The simple and complex rules would be mechanically identical. The only difference is that with the simple rules, the majority of the decisions and options the advanced rules present are chosen for you instead of by you. An advanced rules character should have the option to build identically to a simple rule character, thus they're perfectly compatible and technically balanced. Custom characters will excel in certain situations and likely have weaknesses in others, compared to the simple version, but that's all.



The problem is that this doesn't really work at all, because the first example isn't actually simpler characters, and one major problem is complexity.

Moreover, the custom characters will inevitably be orders of magnitude stronger.

I'm not saying that it WILL happen, or even that it's likely to (I haven't been real impressed with what the D&D team has cranked out in the last 15 years or so, compared to many other design teams), but for the first time in about 15 years, it sounds to me like they're at least TRYING to go in the right direction, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt for a little while longer.



The sad thing is that D&D's team is the most talented in the RPG business. White Wolf is good for what they do, but they're not really even trying to directly compete with D&D, which is wise. They focus on their strengths and their strengths are quite interesting, but I don't really feel a burning desire to play their games at all.

GURPS is a mess. I like the idea but it just isn't focused enough to work.

Some of the random indie RPGs like Poison'd are pretty neat, but they're kind of... different. Admittedly I haven't played a lot of these, so maybe there's some gems I'm missing.

Paizo has done nothing original, and Pathfinder is just an example of what is wrong with the OGL - basically someone just taking D&D, reskinning it, and selling it, without making any real improvements and not understanding the issues 3.x faced.

So who exactly are you talking about? I'm actually interested.
To address from the top down...

This is a great case in point. GURPS is a mess.



Based on what? I'll absolutely agree with you that just about every system does at least one thing better than GURPS does, but that's kind of the point of it being the Generic Universal game. None of them (that I know of) do everything as well as it does. The biggest problem with it (in my mind) isn't any specific shortcomings, so much as the fact that the game is so expansive that you have to get really, really familiar with the character creation rules in order to build the character you want to play without getting totally overwhelmed. It's not a problem for me, but it's really not kind to new players in that respect.

That and the game has no Style of it's own. It's just sort of inherently boring. A quality system, but boring. Back to the Generic thing I suppose.


Monster design is dependent on character design...



That's a concept fairly unique to D&D actually. Yes, all prebuilt adversaries in other games must be on a power scale similar to the players (if they're intended to be fought with chance of victory, which oddly enough isn't always the case), but that's a very broad brush. I'm having a hard time thinking of another game which proposes enemies with any kind of challenge rating like D&D does, intended only to fight characters in a very narrow portion of their campaign-lifespan.

D&D exclusive gamers and designers (in my experience) seem to be a little myopic regarding how to deal with enemies. Hit it until it's hit points go down to zero. In a lot of other games, when confronted with something much more powerful than the players, they either do their best NOT to fight it, or figure out some way to kill it other than poking it with a sword. A lack of Challenge Rating is not the end of the world.

The problem is that this doesn't really work at all, because the first example isn't actually simpler characters, and one major problem is complexity.

Moreover, the custom characters will inevitably be orders of magnitude stronger.



I don't entirely follow the first bit... are you saying that the problem is that they're TOO complex, or not complex enough?

On your second statement there, I agree to a point. If the designers do a good job, then they can make the simply packaged character competitive. Yes the players will ALWAYS find that one or two or three combinations of abilities that set a character head and shoulders above the majority, and the more options the designers present the more difficult it is to keep that from happening. That said, part of the point of the large scale play testing we're doing (once we have those options to test) is to find those combinations and restrict them in some way. It won't get all of them and it's not perfect, but personally, I'm ok with those who know the system really well being able to milk a little more out of it, so long as it's not game breaking.

White Wolf is good for what they do, but they're not really even trying to directly compete with D&D, which is wise.



Nobody tries to directly compete with D&D (except pazio, and if you believe the claims then pathfinder has overtaken 4e in sales recently, which is exceptionally ironic since you're completely right about it being 99% WotC's own product). It's still a good product, regardless of personal taste or opinion, but there are other reasons as well. Part of that is because D&D has the name. It's synonymous with tabletop roleplaying, and as any market analyst will tell you, that's the most powerful thing there is.

Another reason for this is because different games fill different niches and play styles and thus attract different portions of the roleplaying fanbase. It's common sense. When there's a really popular product, why try and compete with it directly when you can instead invest your time and money appealing to a slightly different demographic.

None of the other RPG's out there that are coming readily to mind are designed first and foremost as a scenario driven skirmish level tactical combat game, which D&D has been for quite some time. The others don't compete directly because they're selling different types of games. If they tried to build a game just like D&D, then D&D would win out because it's still D&D (except in the case of pathfinder, in which they re-made D&D under another name because so many players didn't view 4e as D&D in anything but name).

And to sum up, there's aren't too many games that put a heavy emphasis on optional rules for two reasons. First because some are built on a more flexible set of mechanics, which often times accommodate more in the first place without additional rules and thus don't need as many optional mechanics to cover different situations. They're not inherently superior, but flexibility is it's own advantage. The second reason has to do with D&D more than the other companies themselves: No other game has as broad (and therefore diverse) a fanbase as D&D does, and so it need not attempt to appeal to as many play styles.

What was saw with 4e was a game who's merits we can debate all day, but which unarguably appealed only to a (realatively speaking) small portion of the playerbase. If that were not the case, pathfinder could never have garnered the following that it has.

I feel that it isn't the inherent nature of optional rules that keep them from being more prevalent. Almost every group I've every played with has their own house rules, which amount to the same. They just aren't published. There are situational reasons why they're not more common in print.

As far as games that offered a fairly hefty list of optional rules that still functioned well, in addition to GURPS, I can think of Cyberpunk (the old version, not the new one), and a heck of a lot of houserules, which several different groups I played 3e and 3.5 with put into place, which still functioned quite nicely. They may not have been officially recognized by the publisher (though I believe some were) but the worked well all the same. Although it's apples and oranges, there are a lot of other tabletop games like Warhammer's various iterations and some of it's roleplaying spinoffs that make liberal use of optional rules as well, and without disastrous effect, and while many of them aren't actual RPG's they share an awful lot of mechanical similarities.

Hope I more or less answered most of it there, with this wall of text... man my fingers are tired.
I can think of Cyberpunk



Just wanted to point out the truly important part of that wall of text thar Choomba

Cyberpunk is full on win It's like PLanescape level Win If you don't know you better ask somebody

It really boils down to whether one not you are okay seeing this written in the books.

"Class A and Class B are more down to earth and thus much weaker than Class C and Class D. If any player wishes to play A or B and another wishes to play C or D, you are recommended to include Module X, Y, or Z in order to boost the strength of the weaker clears or hinder the power of the stronger classes."

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

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