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Cluedrew
2016-05-20, 07:12 AM
So you may have heard of a little issue called caster-martial disparity. (If not ask and I'm sure someone would be happy to explain it.) Now although this seems to be the most pronounced in D&D 3.5e I have hear references to it in other systems as well, so I'm declaring this as system agnostic. Most people seem to try to fix the problem by bringing the casters down, and in many cases this may be the solution or at least part. But that is not what this conversation is about.

This is about creating the god-martial, that is cranking the martial up as far as it can go. Past the limits of mundane every day physical ability, hopefully all the way up to the point of the god-martial, who can stand beside (or against) the god-wizard without assistance while still identifiably being a martial character.

So that is what I'm going for, to boil it down to one line:
How can we make martial characters stronger without making them not martial?

Cosi
2016-05-20, 07:21 AM
It's easy. You just have to accept that they are not mundane. If you can do that, you can write martials that go every bit as far as spellcasters. Consider MTG, specifically planeswalkers. Every planeswalker is a high level character. They travel the planes, fighting gods, eldritch abominations, the borg, and other planeswalkers. Some of them are various types of caster (Chandra is a Pyromancer, Jace is a Psion) but some of them are martials (Elspeth is a Knight, Gideon is a Soldier).

Frozen_Feet
2016-05-20, 07:34 AM
Low level? Guns, night-vision goggles, radio.

Mid level? Assault helicopters, main battle tanks.

High level? Nuclear weapons, internet.

:smalltongue:

TheCountAlucard
2016-05-20, 07:51 AM
Play Exalted. :smalltongue:

Fri
2016-05-20, 10:27 AM
If you say this is system agnostic, just accept that not all non-mundane abilities are dnd style magic. Just that.

For example, in a chinese martial art novel you might find a monk punching the ground and have a fortress of sand rising from it.

You could say "he's not monk, he's actually a wizard and he's using fabricate spell (or whatever dnd spell can do that)"

Or you could accept that he's not in DnD setting, and martial art can do that in that setting.

The Zoat
2016-05-20, 10:47 AM
If you say this is system agnostic, just accept that not all non-mundane abilities are dnd style magic. Just that.

For example, in a chinese martial art novel you might find a monk punching the ground and have a fortress of sand rising from it.

You could say "he's not monk, he's actually a wizard and he's using fabricate spell (or whatever dnd spell can do that)"

Or you could accept that he's not in DnD setting, and martial art can do that in that setting.

While that works to an extent, an example one you just gave makes very little sense unless the function of this sand fortress summoning art is explained as somehow supernatural, and then it might as well be magic.

Fri
2016-05-20, 11:02 AM
Well yes. It might as well be magic. Jumping 100m to the air also might as well be magic. Punching a castle to dust might as well be magic. At the end, it's all in the description, isn't it? :smallsmile:

Summoning a sand fortress from punch wouldn't be the weirdest thing martial arts are pictured to do in chinese martial art fiction after all.

Another example would be something I saw in old fantasy martial art indonesian movie. Characters slicing tree trunk and throwing them to the air, then ride them surfer-style. And they do swordfight on top of them, using those tree trunks as rides.

Mind that this is specifically martial art, since there are actual magicians and such in the setting


while still identifiably being a martial character.

This part really depend on a lot of things I guess, including culture and individual preference.

The Zoat
2016-05-20, 11:08 AM
Well yes. It might as well be magic. Jumping 100m to the air also might as well be magic. Punching a castle to dust might as well be magic. At the end, it's all in the description, isn't it? :smallsmile:

Summoning a sand fortress from punch wouldn't be the weirdest thing martial arts are pictured to do in chinese martial art fiction after all.


Therein lies the issue. Any martial class that can do all the ridiculous things like make buildings from sand and punch a castle.to dust is very close to being a caster with really specific spells. Even then, some things a caster can do that a martial simply can't, like Wish, Polymorph or straight up Power Word: Kill. Once you reach stuff like that, pretending to be a martial is really a waste of time.

Fri
2016-05-20, 11:16 AM
Therein lies the issue. Any martial class that can do all the ridiculous things like make buildings from sand and punch a castle.to dust is very close to being a caster with really specific spells. Even then, some things a caster can do that a martial simply can't, like Wish, Polymorph or straight up Power Word: Kill. Once you reach stuff like that, pretending to be a martial is really a waste of time.

True enough. But how could "godly martial character" stand beside "godly magician character" if he can't do awesome godly things then?

I mean, I like gritty realistic martial artist character as much as the next person, but that means he has to be in a proper setting for that.

This remind me on a discussion I overheard about Final Fantasy 14 (The MMO). In that setting, there are magicians who can summon fireballs and lightning, and elemental creatures. But there are also martial characters like Warriors and Paladins and Dragoon (lancers).

It's Final Fantasy game. It's expected besides Black Magician that can summon impressive giant fireballs, a Dragoon can jump hundreds of meters into the air and stab down an enemy with draconic visual aura. A paladin can summon spiritual shield to protect himself, and attack multiple enemies at range with a supernatural wave from his sword swing. But for some reason there are people who find it hard to accept that all those martial characters can do that. They're fine with magicians summoning fireball, but take objection to knights attacking enemies with supernatural sword wave.

The problem is, it's a final fantasy game. Those things are completely expected and in character. It's fine to dislike visual martial aura in say, game of thrones game (though I won't be surprised if someone can do that), but won't you be missing the point if you object on it in a final fantasy game?

Cosi
2016-05-20, 11:18 AM
True enough. But how could "godly martial character" stand beside "godly magician character" if he can't do awesome godly things then?

Pretty much this. If "martial" or "mundane" or whatever is defined as "can't have real ultimate power", then characters who are martial will never have real ultimate power. You can't limit one group of characters to what is "realistic" and the other to "whatever you want" and expect that to result in balance.

Cazero
2016-05-20, 11:26 AM
I'll leave those two (http://bobandgeorge.com/archives/040303) things (http://bobandgeorge.com/archives/040304) here and add the word "concentration" because direct damage might be too harsh. Martials can now wave their swords at magic to break it.

Now you only have to solve the issue of martial damage not scaling like it should for the number crunching to work. I suggest looking how 4e did it and work from here.

Cluedrew
2016-05-20, 05:39 PM
It's easy. You just have to accept that they are not mundane.You would think so but people still seem to have trouble with it anyways. See Fri's Final Fantasy example.

To Frozen_Feet: I agree, can call in reinforcements, has the proper gear and similar is a valid power-source. But I don't think it should be the only one.

As for the more general topic of what separates a martial and a caster... yeah I don't got a great answer for that. If I had to create a single solution I would simply create an array of character creation options that vary in how "magic" they are and then not actually declare where the line is. So you have someone who can jump 100m up, another that casts spells on swords, one who is a host for a supernatural spirit of war, one who attacks through pressure waves, one who can focus chi into strikes, one who knows exactly how to use some magic items and more. Which ones are casters and which ones are martials?

Random question: Where do DragonBall characters fall on the caster/martial line? Because to me it is... stupidly powerful but at the same time I would call them martials without a doubt.

Vitruviansquid
2016-05-20, 06:24 PM
The whole premise of this question is so DnD. It's not hard to think up a martial character as strong as a magician, as soon as you abandon DnD prejudices.

In the Ramayana, a dude shoots a thousand arrows at Rama only for Rama to shoot back a thousand of his own and knock each arrow out of the way. To anyone not blinded by the glamour of DnD, those are two amazing feats of archery. To those who are, it's either somehow explained as technically magic or "we dismiss that Tome of Battle anime stuff."

nedz
2016-05-20, 06:33 PM
But it wouldn't be realistic to have mundane characters who can do that.

The above is the paradyme you have to discard.

Once you do that however: do you still have mundane characters ?

There's no right answer: it depends entirely upon what you are trying to do.

Concrete
2016-05-20, 06:40 PM
The way I see it, there would be at least two different ways to create a system where magic and martial can be equal.

1. To ensure that magic and martial effects have similar Costs.
While magic is, fluff-wise, won by extensive study, an extraordinary degree of faith, hard-won wisdom, great passion or other such means in DnD, mechanically, an effect for a mage often costs a round or an action, whereas a similar effect for a martial character costs gold and requires access to co-operative mages, while still, in the end leaving him less versatile and less powerful.


2. As long as one classifies magic as a means of manipulating the same forces as a martial character can, but just in different ways, it should be possible.

That way, one can make sure that two characters taking these divergent paths might reach equal heights, but in different ways.

If one accepts that a mage can reach absurd and magnificent levels of capability with his mind, can we not accept that a martial character can reach similar degrees of capability with his body?

The mage learns to conjure fireballs, the martial character reaches absurd speeds to avoid it, great enough strength to wear an armor so thick that the heat of the fire would dissipate before penetrating it, lungs strong enough to create a wind that would divert it, or skin resilient enough weather it outright.

The mage learns to create a wall of stone, the martial character leaps over it, or punches through it to counter it, or has the mobility and skill at arms to in some ways emulate it.

The mage develops the ability to become invisible, the martial character develops hearing enough to locate him anyways to counter it, or extreme abilities of speed or stealth to emulate it.

A way to differentiate martial and magical characters in this way would be their approach. A mages approach is general. If he wants to close off a location, he conjures a huge wall. A martial character must be more specific. Depending on what he closes the location off from, he must do some specific thing.

Cluedrew
2016-05-20, 06:58 PM
To Vitruviansquid: You are correct that this issue does appear quite highly in D&D. You might even say that it is the worst offender. Except things like Ars Magica, but from what I know of the game that is the point. Still I see it in other placed is well, I've heard a few similar complaints about Shadowrun for instance. Ancient legends on the other hand seem to be shining examples of martial awesome.

To nedz: Well, I've been using the work martial as opposed to mundane on purpose, because I feel mundane does mean "as in real life" while martial means physical power and mastery. To me the two ideas are very separate.

To Concrete: I love your examples.

The Zoat
2016-05-20, 08:53 PM
It's expected besides Black Magician that can summon impressive giant fireballs, a Dragoon can jump hundreds of meters into the air and stab down an enemy with draconic visual aura. A paladin can summon spiritual shield to protect himself, and attack multiple enemies at range with a supernatural wave from his sword swing. But for some reason there are people who find it hard to accept that all those martial characters can do that. They're fine with magicians summoning fireball, but take objection to knights attacking enemies with supernatural sword wave.

The problem is, it's a final fantasy game. Those things are completely expected and in character. It's fine to dislike visual martial aura in say, game of thrones game (though I won't be surprised if someone can do that), but won't you be missing the point if you object on it in a final fantasy game?

In final fantasy, everyone is a caster. All the classes have access to abilities that require mana to use that let them perform amazing feats, and the system they use is often the same.

Cosi
2016-05-20, 09:27 PM
You would think so but people still seem to have trouble with it anyways. See Fri's Final Fantasy example.

I don't think you can satisfy those people. They want Fighter and Wizard to be equal, but they want some Wizard abilities to be off limits to Fighters. It's just not a workable paradigm.


To Frozen_Feet: I agree, can call in reinforcements, has the proper gear and similar is a valid power-source. But I don't think it should be the only one.

It's a valid power source in some settings. I don't have a problem with mundane characters showing up with radio comms, attack drones, and cyberware in a Shadowrun or Star Wars game, but that kind of thing is incredibly disruptive for a D&D game because it's totally out of genre.


Random question: Where do DragonBall characters fall on the caster/martial line? Because to me it is... stupidly powerful but at the same time I would call them martials without a doubt.

Martial, not mundane.

Max_Killjoy
2016-05-20, 09:51 PM
Martial characters in D&D haven't been "mundane" in a long time -- the Feats list for martial characters is full of things that no real person could actually do.

The Zoat
2016-05-20, 10:45 PM
Random question: Where do DragonBall characters fall on the caster/martial line? Because to me it is... stupidly powerful but at the same time I would call them martials without a doubt.

I think they count as both. On one hand, they use their internal energies to basically shoot fireballs made of ki, but hey they also punch things.

Teapot Salty
2016-05-20, 11:02 PM
My idea is that martial character are better at doing ridiculous things. The fighter wants to stab the ground so that the edge of the cliff falls away? Sure! The barbarian wants to smash through a wall by running at it even though theirs a door right there? Why not? The ranger's knowledge and tracking prowess mean that he immediately knows that the troll gets burned easy? Hell yes!

Jormengand
2016-05-21, 06:50 AM
Walk up to the mage and coup de grace the bastard, through his spells, from the other side of a wall of force, while nauseated (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?428437-quot-Stand-back-boy-and-let-me-show-you-war!-quot-%283-5-class-PEACH%29). He deserved it.

Fri
2016-05-21, 07:48 AM
In final fantasy, everyone is a caster. All the classes have access to abilities that require mana to use that let them perform amazing feats, and the system they use is often the same.

Nah, not in FF14. That's the point.

In FF14 there are 3 kinds of skills. Skills that uses mana, skills that use TP (stamina bar basically, it depletes when you sprint), and skills that uses cooldowns (you can only use it once ever minutes or so).

Warriors and dragoon specifically don't use mana bar at all. They only use stamina and cooldowns.

Though if you want to see it that way, technically you can say they all use Aether or what's it called, the energy that flows through everyone and everything in the setting.

Anyway, interestingly this is actually what I mentioned in my example about people seeing supernatural stuffs in other setting and seeing it in DnD Paradigm "it's actually magic, the're all actually magician."

Quertus
2016-05-21, 08:25 AM
My idea is that martial character are better at doing ridiculous things. The fighter wants to stab the ground so that the edge of the cliff falls away? Sure! The barbarian wants to smash through a wall by running at it even though theirs a door right there? Why not? The ranger's knowledge and tracking prowess mean that he immediately knows that the troll gets burned easy? Hell yes!

The bard can make kingdoms rise and fall with his PR powers? Sense Motive lets you understand motives and predict behavior better than ESP + divination? The detective can tell species, plane of origin, and perhaps even identity just from a single footprint (with several, he could tell what they were looking at, what they were thinking, and what part they played in the crime that took place there)? Sounds fun!

Now, a word of warning: if a mundane character can, by whim, surpass the skill and training of a mage, it is only fair that the mage, by whim, be able to surpass the skill and training of the martial. If the expectation is that martial characters will be leaping over or punching through conjured walls, trivializing the power of the mage, it is only fair that the mage wave away swords and regenerate new bodies, trivializing the power of the martial. CoDzilla should be the expectation of the minimal martial response of the mage (kinda like an unoptimized bard is a minimal martial response in the current metagame).

Actually, I kinda like this role reversal - where the expectation is that the party mage will be a durable frontline combatant, chewing through your enemies, while the mundane will be your (backline) toolkit, predicting the future and breaking down magical barriers with the power of love.

Frozen_Feet
2016-05-21, 09:57 AM
It's a valid power source in some settings. I don't have a problem with mundane characters showing up with radio comms, attack drones, and cyberware in a Shadowrun or Star Wars game, but that kind of thing is incredibly disruptive for a D&D game because it's totally out of genre.

That is somewhat the point.

Let's get to the root of this: originally "magic" meant knowledge. And knowledge is power. In medieval fantasy, non-magical characters lack power not because the non-magical world is less powerful than the magical world, but because non-magical characters are not allowed to know and exploit the non-magical world to the same extent as mages know and exploit the magical word.

Real god-tier non-magical martials cannot exist in medieval stasis. You have to open up to genres of science fiction and science fantasy to do that.

Now, magical martials are an alternative. This is actually written in core d20 rules. Become strong enough, and you can punch through steel and climb sheer surfaces. Become dextrous enough, and you can walk on water or balance on clouds. Become tough enough, and you can eat poisons for dessert and fall from orbit no problem, or survive in vacuum. Become smart enough, and you can tell everything ever written down of anything you see. Become wise enough, and you can read people's thoughts and hear what's being said on other side of the globe. Become charismatic enough, and you can in a minute make anyone into your zealous follower.

Become good enough with a sword and you can cleave force effects in two. Become good enough with a bow, and you can shoot down the sun.

These are all in the rules. The problem is that martials have to wait for epic levels for many of these, while mages get to cheat and do some of these from level 1.

If you were to extrapolate from epic martial abilities, epic martials should eventually become able to leap from planet to planet, tank meteors and strike out stars.

Komatik
2016-05-21, 11:32 AM
Cleaving force effects sounds like it'd make a really kickass high level maneuver. Who doesn't like the idea of just cutting a hole in the forcecage?

Cluedrew
2016-05-21, 11:42 AM
I don't think you can satisfy those people. They want Fighter and Wizard to be equal, but they want some Wizard abilities to be off limits to Fighters. It's just not a workable paradigm.You can make it work:

Some of the fighter abilities (of similar power) are off limit to wizards.
Everything the fighter can do, the fighter can do much better than the wizard.
The problem is generally one of scale, there is often a bit of both of these in many games, but they don't go far enough to make up for the wizard only abilities


Walk up to the mage and coup de grace the bastard, through his spells, from the other side of a wall of force, while nauseated (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?428437-quot-Stand-back-boy-and-let-me-show-you-war!-quot-%283-5-class-PEACH%29). He deserved it.That sounds like fun.

You know another idea I like (in the area of countering magic) is that even if martials can't use magic that doesn't mean they can't interact with it. Simple example, batting aside an incoming fireball. Or for the explodes on contact type, but your shield in the way so it goes off in the wizard's face. There are lots of these interactions but rules sets generally don't accommodate them. Sometimes this makes sense (psych attacks and similar) but for things that exist in the physical world should have physical responses. Such as the force effects example.

Linken
2016-05-21, 12:23 PM
Walk up to the mage and coup de grace the bastard, through his spells, from the other side of a wall of force, while nauseated (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?428437-quot-Stand-back-boy-and-let-me-show-you-war!-quot-%283-5-class-PEACH%29). He deserved it.

If I may ask, how's this balanced? Looks kinda... er... powerful?

Jormengand
2016-05-21, 12:59 PM
If I may ask, how's this balanced? Looks kinda... er... powerful?

Sure, you can ask, and the answer looks something like this:


Well, let's have a look at what a wizard can do by the time he's level 9:

- Create a noise equivalent to 20 shouting humans wherever he likes within 45 feet (Ghost sound, 0lvl)
- Create small objects, warm things up, change their taste, etc. (Prestidigitation, 0lvl)
- Make any humanoid his friend (Charm person, 1st)
- Knock out a roomful of low-level guards (Colour spray, 1st)
- Slow fall as the monk's 18th-level ability, only better (Feather Fall, 1st)
- Walk through a raging inferno unburned (Prot. Energy, 2nd)
- Become invisible (Invisibility, 2nd)
- Create four to seven illusory copies of himself and control all of them at once. (Mirror Image, 2nd)
- I prepared explosive runes this morning. (Explosive Runes, 3rd)
- Summon a frankly ridiculous horse. (Phantom Steed, 3rd)
- Definitely not scrying. (Clairvoyance/Clairaudience, 3rd)
- Brutally murder a roomful of low-level guards. (Fireball, 3rd)
- Fly (Fly, 3rd)
- Definitely scrying. (Scrying, 4th)
- Shoot off 760 feet as a standard action. (Dim. Door, 4th)
- Create a raging inferno. (Wall of Fire, 4th)
- "Wall is immune to damage." That's a nice summary. (Wall of force, 5th)
- Brutally murder a roomful of mid-level guards, and badly injure any high-level guards that might have snuck in there. (Cloudkill, 5th)
- Utterly control someone. (Dominate person, 5th)
- Murder a 1st-level character from anywhere on the same plane while they sleep (Nightmare, 5th)

You have to be able to stand up to that somehow. And "I hit it with my axe. I trip it. I grapple it." doesn't really stand up to that.

Arbane
2016-05-21, 01:02 PM
Martial characters in D&D haven't been "mundane" in a long time -- the Feats list for martial characters is full of things that no real person could actually do.

Conversely, there's still some things 'normal people' can do that D&D characters can't (without buying the appropriate feat/item/mojo, of course) - like run at someone and hit them TWICE.

Linken
2016-05-21, 01:26 PM
Sure, you can ask, and the answer looks something like this:

Sounds... fun, then. I might ask a GM to let me try it.

Jormengand
2016-05-21, 02:07 PM
Sounds... fun, then. I might ask a GM to let me try it.

Unfortunately, many GMs believe that mundanes with nice things is blasphemy, and that only wizards are allowed to be stupidly powerful.

Ravian
2016-05-21, 02:08 PM
I think the big problem isn't necessarily that magic is capable of so much that martial isn't, but that magic does so easily.

At low levels things in D&D get very dicey between a mage and a fighter, the mage has some nice tricks to pull out, but most of the are low duration and he only has so many available until he peters out, meanwhile the fighter might be able to outlast the spells before punching the mage into a pulp.

But at a certain point, mages just have access to things that completely nullify fighters and can use them often enough that the fighter just can't keep up.

A one v. one fight between a level 20 mage and a level 20 fighter is patently absurd because there are simply too many angles and approaches by which the mage can absolutely wreck the fighter.

But here's the biggest problem. It takes an absolutely equal amount of effort for a mage to get to level 20 as a fighter, assuming the two are in the same party. Sure the mage will have a few more difficulties at extremely low levels than the fighter, and there is some fluff in that learning magic takes longer for a mage than it takes for a fighter to learn his art, but for the most part, the two are largely equal in amount of effort they have to expend while the mage gets enormously larger rewards for that effort.



So as I see it, there are a few courses of action by which we can address this issue.

One, make martials worth it. If a fighter gets just as much out of his levels as a mage gets, then the problem is largely addressed. The unfortunate downside to this is that it means that in order to match the kinds of shenanigans that magic can do at high levels, martials are going to have to start straining the bonds of "realism". Granted, I don't actually see the problem in martials getting more extraordinary (as they tend to do in legends and mythology) but in some settings this becomes more of a problem.

Two, give magic a price. One element that is often common in fantasy fiction but is largely non-existent in D&D is the idea of magic invoking a price. I have less concrete ideas of how this might work, but if the more powerful spells took more than simply ticking off one of your spells per day, it might work to balancing the incredible powers of magic with the more reliable powers of martial.

Three, make magic harder. This would actually involve balancing the system by making it more difficult for a mage to level than a martial. The greatest problem with this is that it involves withholding toys from some people longer than others.

Personally, I'm the biggest fans of one, but two also has merits for those that are really insistent on martial realism.

Darth Ultron
2016-05-21, 02:31 PM
How can we make martial characters stronger without making them not martial?

You'd need to define what ''martial'' is first. A lot of people have it ''martial=weak'' along with ''magic=anything cool''. And if you use those definitions it's hopeless.

And if you will further say ''martial must be non magical'' well, then you can avoid magic. So, then you just give martial folks ''powers'' equal to magic, but not ''magic''. And this is exactly what D&D did with things like The Tome of Battle and 4E.

And it's easy enough to give normal martial characters nice things. Like how about mundanes get a plus to all saves equal to their character level or twice their level or such. And you could give them the same bonus to hit and damage and anything else too.

And it would be easy to increase the hit points of any martial character by say three times...maybe more.

Or even give mundanes magic resistance of something like 5% a level.

Cluedrew
2016-05-21, 02:59 PM
To Jormengand: I noticed this was in your sig:
I say that Chuck Norris memes are the best model for how to think of high-level mundane characters.Which is certainly one way to approach it, you might have to take a step back (land speed: can punch yourself in the back of the head; might be a bit excusive) but the idea is certainly there.


Conversely, there's still some things 'normal people' can do that D&D characters can't (without buying the appropriate feat/item/mojo, of course) - like run at someone and hit them TWICE.Or move and attack at the same time, or slap at the hands of someone casting a spell.

Also, for me "martial"="body", so a martial character is one who draws power from their body. As opposed to their mind, nature or divine beings.

PersonMan
2016-05-21, 03:21 PM
Unfortunately, many GMs believe that mundanes with nice things is blasphemy, and that only wizards are allowed to be stupidly powerful.

In my experience, it's mostly because martial classes likely have all of their class features in one place. The GM reads all of their abilities and it seems incredible how much they can do.

Meanwhile, the magic users have their abilities spread out over a chapter or more of whatever magic subsystem they use, so you have to go through and find everything, then add it together.

Quertus
2016-05-22, 09:38 AM
You'd need to define what ''martial'' is first. A lot of people have it ''martial=weak'' along with ''magic=anything cool''. And if you use those definitions it's hopeless.

And if you will further say ''martial must be non magical'' well, then you can avoid magic. So, then you just give martial folks ''powers'' equal to magic, but not ''magic''. And this is exactly what D&D did with things like The Tome of Battle and 4E.

And it's easy enough to give normal martial characters nice things. Like how about mundanes get a plus to all saves equal to their character level or twice their level or such. And you could give them the same bonus to hit and damage and anything else too.

And it would be easy to increase the hit points of any martial character by say three times...maybe more.

Or even give mundanes magic resistance of something like 5% a level.

Given that your examples for mundane boosts are all just "bigger numbers", it's easy to see why magic = cool.

Talking to a first time player about what she wanted for spells, and her desired spells pretty much fell into two categories: save-or-die, and cool. Not blasting, not battlefield control, not buffing, not minions, not mind control. The most, and least, effective spells (according to some, at least).

Personally, I like martial characters having both power and coolness. Like a strike that says, "you take 5 steps, and you are dead". Or shooting an arrow through the chink in the dragon's armor, piercing its heart and one-shoting the BBEG. Or developing an immunity to iocane powder.

JoeJ
2016-05-22, 12:16 PM
Conversely, there's still some things 'normal people' can do that D&D characters can't (without buying the appropriate feat/item/mojo, of course) - like run at someone and hit them TWICE.

That's not a D&D thing, that's just a 3.x thing (and maybe 4e, I don't know much about that system).

jitzul
2016-05-22, 12:44 PM
I've only started playing tabeltops with 5e d&d at the start of the year so excuse my ignorance. But ever since reading this thread and reading that tome of battle one poster was talking about is there a way to create a "godly martial" without pissing off a bunch of people? One solution of making martial classes perform crazy feats seems to be shunned at large for not being realistic and being "weeaboo crap". The only other solution that seems somewhat plausible and can make not that many people mad is to nerf spellcasters and make spell casting have a adverse effect on the user.

Imo I am totally ok with having martial class's going wild and busting out techniques that let them like cut a ship in half or leap 50 feet in the air. As long as it fits the setting and the real crazy stuff can only be done at a high level and once per day let high level martial class's pull some real superhero/greek mythology type stuff. But that's just my newbish uninformed 2 cents.

SethoMarkus
2016-05-22, 02:11 PM
I think Adlet Mayer (of Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers) is a good example of how a martial character can be powerful and rival casters without being superhuman.

In the series, there is a demon lord who is attempting to conquer the world. Six heroes are chose by cosmic forces to oppose this evil, and it is from the strongest warriors that these heroes are chosen. Adlet Mayer was chosen, among several characters called Saints (essentially spellcasters and gish types). While the Saints have supernatural abilities, only women can become Saints. Three of the heroes are male, and each stand toe-to-toe with the Saints.

Adlet is able to match (and surpass) the supernatual abilities of his compatriots through using tricks, gadets, and ingenuity. Using knowledge of science and chemistry, he creates smoke bombs and flashbangs. He observes his enemy and is able to quickly figure out the secret to their technique and exploit it against them. He uses the environment to his advantage. He is not the strongest or brightest, but he consistently finds a way to come out on top.

I believe that is what martial characters need. Abilities and skills that allow them to circumvent their opponents strengths and exploit their weaknesses. Alchemy is a good place to start (aside from it requiring a spellcasting class in 3.5 and possibly other systems), but that only goes so far. Skill tricks are another tool that can be used, but they fall short as well.

Another problem is that this fighting style is already covered by the core rules, albeit poorly. Reflex saves to dodge spells, Will saves to grit through enchantments, Fortitude saves to resist poisons, etc (again in 3.5 but similar traits are in most TTRPGs I'm familiar with). Martial characters just need to be better at what they already do, as well as have some tricks that spellcasters don't have. Thry need some way to turn the spellcasters' tricks right back at them. Instead of Ghost Sound, there's ventriloquism. Instead of Burning Hands, there's oil and a spark. Take abilities from ToB qnd make them accessible without a supernatural flavor.

Efrate
2016-05-22, 02:20 PM
That still is an issues, 1x a day at higher levels do some greek mythology style stuff, whereas a caster can do it at much lower level and multiple time.

At a very basic level casters get more spells for having a higher stat. Each spell is A potentially distinct useful and powerful ability. Or mutiple uses of a really good one.

A martial character can have all the strength in the world, but he never gains any more attacks from it. Granted using "attacks" isn't the best in general but it serves to illustrate a point. If you want your martials to be able to do the epic stuff they need to be able to do it around the same level and the same amount of time as a caster.

I think part of the problem also is when martials must be reactive to counter/equal the magic characters. If you need to power them up by giving solutions to mage issues/powers you are approaching the problem wrong. Martials especially should be more proactive than reactive, because if their abilities are limited by only being a response to something, they kind of fall apart. I for one am more a fan of the martial taking charge and doing something than waiting for something to happen then having a solution, but YMMV.

Darth Ultron
2016-05-22, 04:23 PM
Given that your examples for mundane boosts are all just "bigger numbers", it's easy to see why magic = cool.

I was just giving examples. Feel free to add in ''mundaneport'' where a mundane can just instantaneously move from one spot to another or or ''mundanemorph'' where they can change into other creatures or any other thing that makes magic cool to you.

Giving mundanes movement/attack points that can be used every round is a good idea.

Cluedrew
2016-05-22, 04:43 PM
To Quertus: Your examples at the end made me think of another difference besides flavouring that effects whether something is martial or mystic; consistent vs. burst effect. It is only a convention, one that does not necessarily reflect reality (I find it easier to exert myself mentally over a long time for less immediate effect, while exerting myself physically does a lot in the short term but I'm tired afterwards) but it is there. Not sure if it should be.


I've only started playing tabeltops with 5e d&d at the start of the year so excuse my ignorance. But ever since reading this thread and reading that tome of battle one poster was talking about is there a way to create a "godly martial" without pissing off a bunch of people?In my experience it is rarely useful to measure someone's knowledge by what they don't know. As for making people angry... I think what they don't like is when martials are powered up by making them like casters, which I hope to avoid.

To SethoMarkus: So a kind of trickster martial?

To Darth Ultron: Not sure about teleport or morph (although I suppose a really good doctor might justify the second) but I could see a few like: Mundane spider crawl -> Strong finger muscles, Mundane CHA Buff -> Flash a winning smile, Mundane freedom of movement -> I know Jiu Jitsu, Mundane divination -> I know I guy on the inside, and so on.

Darth Ultron
2016-05-22, 06:00 PM
To Darth Ultron: Not sure about teleport or morph (although I suppose a really good doctor might justify the second) but I could see a few like: Mundane spider crawl -> Strong finger muscles, Mundane CHA Buff -> Flash a winning smile, Mundane freedom of movement -> I know Jiu Jitsu, Mundane divination -> I know I guy on the inside, and so on.

Well, if your saying that mundanes must have exactly the same abilities as spellcasters, then you don't really need to explain the ''mundane'' any more then you explain the ''magic''. A wizard can teleport to the other side of the world and a fighter can popport to the other side of the world, as both abilities are identical. How does it works? Well, page 33 says so, so the game rolls on.

Cluedrew
2016-05-22, 06:31 PM
On Justification, or to Darth Ultron: From a mechanical stand point it is true, you don't need to explain how it works. However I like doing so, providing an explanation that feels right (even if it is ultimately meaningless) makes everything feel more alive and vibrant. I actually take issue with the magic of D&D not explaining enough, and I don't mean actually spelling out how it works but I don't even get a feel of some internally consistent logic that governs it. But that might just be me. (I have a similar issue with Harry Potter.)

Also I don't think martials should be the same as casters, just on the same level. (As an equation martial =/= caster, |martial| = |caster|.)

SethoMarkus
2016-05-23, 12:47 AM
To SethoMarkus: So a kind of trickster martial?


More or less. Adlet from my example is very much not a rogue or swashbuckler archetype, he is a fighter. He just uses wit as his most powerful weapon. I feel like other iconic warriors do the same but in less direct or obvious ways. Finn MacCool using pain to keep awake to slay Aillen. Perseus using the polished face of the shield as a mirror to best Medusa. The adventures of Sinbad are good examples of this style of wit, too, though often less combat oriented and not exclusive to a martial type.

Max_Killjoy
2016-05-23, 09:22 AM
More or less. Adlet from my example is very much not a rogue or swashbuckler archetype, he is a fighter. He just uses wit as his most powerful weapon. I feel like other iconic warriors do the same but in less direct or obvious ways. Finn MacCool using pain to keep awake to slay Aillen. Perseus using the polished face of the shield as a mirror to best Medusa. The adventures of Sinbad are good examples of this style of wit, too, though often less combat oriented and not exclusive to a martial type.

In the context of a class-based RPG and the way some players look at things, fighters bash stuff, rogues use tricks... which is why, sadly, you'll see some people insist that tricky fighters need to be dual/multiclassed.

Red Fel
2016-05-23, 01:43 PM
Also, for me "martial"="body", so a martial character is one who draws power from their body. As opposed to their mind, nature or divine beings.

Now, this is actually helpful. Because, as others have mentioned, once you abandon the D&D paradigm of "mundane = a real person can do it," martial and caster become less and less distinct.

So, body-focused. Let's zero in on that. For example, a wuxia-style warrior, who can leap through the air and land on clouds, swing a sword to produce a gust of wind that mows down an army, and knock down an entire mountain with a hammer that's only slightly larger than average - these are all "mundane" feats, right? Since the character is using his body as the focus?

What about Jedi? They're basically monastic swordsmen with superhuman agility, reflexes, and senses. That said, they also have telekinesis and can shoot lightning - are they still martial, or do the thunderbolts take them out of that category?

What about Dragon Ball-style martial artists? Super strong and tough, can fly and move really fast. Also, energy beams. Also, at least one can use teleportation. Also, channeling the energy of the planet's life into an orb of super-exorcism. Still martial, or does the kamehameha turn this into a caster?

M. Bison is the villain of a classic martial arts fighting game. He also wields "Psycho Power," which is somewhere between psychic energy and demonic powers. Is he still a martial, or does that stop when he floats around with his arms crossed whilst glowing purple?

These aren't tongue-in-cheek questions. If we're trying to eliminate the power disparity, at a certain point your average "martial" will be performing feats that are, at the very least, superhuman in nature, or could otherwise be considered miraculous. If we put an upper limit on the martial, however, he will never exceed the caster, who ostensibly has no upper limit. The martial may only do things with his body? The caster can do things with his body, and everything else; he will always be greater.

Honest Tiefling
2016-05-23, 01:59 PM
Low level? Guns, night-vision goggles, radio.

Mid level? Assault helicopters, main battle tanks.

High level? Nuclear weapons, internet.

:smalltongue:

You make me want to play a wizard sitting on the shoulder of a mecha grumbling about how we COULD solve this with magic, but no, we have to use the giant robot because he lost the coin toss that day. Or complaining about how the tank doesn't have a way for him to heat up his cauldron.

Eldan
2016-05-23, 02:38 PM
Therein lies the issue. Any martial class that can do all the ridiculous things like make buildings from sand and punch a castle.to dust is very close to being a caster with really specific spells. Even then, some things a caster can do that a martial simply can't, like Wish, Polymorph or straight up Power Word: Kill. Once you reach stuff like that, pretending to be a martial is really a waste of time.

I once had the idea of writing a system where the effects of powers and their source were independently chosen. So, all characters could learn to create a fortress from nothing, as with the sand punching example above, they jsut do it differently. A summoner calls a Djinn to build it, a wizard calls it up from the ground, a martial punches a mountain so precisely, it falls apart into a fortress and a bard would sing the stones from a quarry alive to stack themselves.

Same effect, different way of achieving it.

Fri
2016-05-23, 03:01 PM
I once had the idea of writing a system where the effects of powers and their source were independently chosen. So, all characters could learn to create a fortress from nothing, as with the sand punching example above, they jsut do it differently. A summoner calls a Djinn to build it, a wizard calls it up from the ground, a martial punches a mountain so precisely, it falls apart into a fortress and a bard would sing the stones from a quarry alive to stack themselves.

Same effect, different way of achieving it.

I like that, and that's how system like MnM do it, doesn't it?

Another idea is to have different source of power have different limitation.

For example, characters are tasked to turn a giant fortress wall into dust with a touch.

A wizard do it using touch spell, but he uses up all of his mana/high level slot and can't do it until he meditate/rest for the whole night.

A fighter do it with a punch, but he strain his body that he lost half his health point.

A monk do it with a ki-enhanced palm, but that uses up all of his ki so that he got major penalty to all of his actions for the rest of the day.

A priest do it by praying to his god to grant him miracle, but he has to pray first and convince his god that this is a worthy cause.

things like that.

Arbane
2016-05-23, 03:21 PM
I once had the idea of writing a system where the effects of powers and their source were independently chosen. So, all characters could learn to create a fortress from nothing, as with the sand punching example above, they jsut do it differently. A summoner calls a Djinn to build it, a wizard calls it up from the ground, a martial punches a mountain so precisely, it falls apart into a fortress and a bard would sing the stones from a quarry alive to stack themselves.

Same effect, different way of achieving it.

One problem is that that's how 4th edition D&D did it, and the grognards HATED it.

Flickerdart
2016-05-23, 03:29 PM
This question ultimately hinges on what you define magic as - both what is and isn't magic. In the right kind of setting, science can fight magic - for every summon demon spell there is a Parallel Reality Biomorph widget that gets you the same thing under a different name. In the right kind of setting, fists can fight magic - Goku and his friends face a bunch of people that call themselves sorcerers and wizards, and "dodge fast enough and then punch them into death" is a tactic that works fine.

But let's consider good ol' Saitama - the One Punch Man. He is basically the pinnacle of martial power - indestructible, indefatigable, impossibly fast, and has the will to fight and win. But Saitama loses to even a trivially skilled wizard because while he has lots and lots of tactical might, he has no strategic capabilities. Whatever he does, there's only one Saitama, doing his Saitama things. Most of the conflict in his show is "will Saitama hear about the problem in time to fix it."

A god-wizard has supreme intelligence - in both senses of the word. He has power, and the knowledge he needs to use it right. This is the most important thing that a god-martial needs. Your typical wizard also casually brings his power to bear anywhere, and so our martial needs to be omnipresent as well as omniscient and omnipotent.

Omnipotence is easy to explain without magic - check out this guy's sweet muscles/ki/whatever. The others are harder. Your god-martial isn't just a fighter, he's a factotum. He's not merely Godzilla on steroids, he's Sherlock Holmes on adderall. He moves so fast that it's like he's in two places at the same time. He can predict the future by seeing every last detail, and crunching the data with his super-brain.

Ultimately, what separates the god-fighter from the god-wizard is that the fighter is not unnatural. While the god-wizard tells the universe who's boss, the god-fighter wields the universe like a weapon to beat in the god-wizard's face.

The god-fighter is the butterfly that flaps its wings in Brazil.

Cluedrew
2016-05-23, 03:30 PM
Now, this is actually helpful. Because, as others have mentioned, once you abandon the D&D paradigm of "mundane = a real person can do it," martial and caster become less and less distinct.I deliberately use the word martial to avoid the connotations of mundane. Which actually does mean boring or every day in some contexts.


WuxiaMost I have seen have been pure martials, although some have mixed in some mystic aspects as well.

JediPersonally I view jedi as mystics who also happen to know martial combat. This comes from less from their actual abilities than their philosophy. Or the philosophy I feel was supposed to be their outside the events of the movies. But talking things out doesn't make for as good video so they reach for their lightsabers. Also the force doesn't come from your body.

Dragon BallI posed this one earlier, personally I say martials.

M. BisonI've never actually done well enough in a street fighter game to see that, so I can't really comment.

To Eldan & Fri: I like the idea of taking it even further and giving different approaches to accomplish the same task. Say the party wants to camp for the night, the wizard can conjure up a building, the cleric prays for the protection of gods, the ranger finds a place that is already safe, the rouge sets traps and the fighter takes a quick powernap and then is good to stand watch for the night (it was only the first day of forced march).

Now obsessively this is the strategy that many systems use. Which goes to show it is hard to get right.

Also, I have the image of boulders doing some joyful country dance in my head.

Cazero
2016-05-23, 03:33 PM
One problem is that that's how 4th edition D&D did it, and the grognards HATED it.
Weird. That's also how 3.5 did it. They just put bigger numbers requirement on non-magical effects.
(See the rules for diplomacy as effective as mind rape, the rules for acrobatics and fitting in a space physicaly smaller than you just like a shrink person spell, and how a high enough STR score allows you to break the planet in one hit since there are rules governing it's HP and hardness)

Red Fel
2016-05-23, 03:59 PM
I deliberately use the word martial to avoid the connotations of mundane. Which actually does mean boring or every day in some contexts.

Agreed.


Most I have seen have been pure martials, although some have mixed in some mystic aspects as well.

That's fair, I'd agree with that.


Personally I view jedi as mystics who also happen to know martial combat. This comes from less from their actual abilities than their philosophy. Or the philosophy I feel was supposed to be their outside the events of the movies. But talking things out doesn't make for as good video so they reach for their lightsabers. Also the force doesn't come from your body.

Okay. So since the emphasis is on psychic powers, they're casters rather than mundanes. Fair.


I posed this one earlier, personally I say martials.

Sounds reasonable to me.

Okay. So here's the thing. Wuxia heroes could fall victim to terrible curses and divine fate; although they could sunder a mountain, they couldn't will one into existence; although they could strike with all the ferocity of a raging dragon, they could never actually be a dragon. So, these martials will ever be inferior to casters.

Jedi are already the most powerful force (no pun intended) in their galaxy. Better than mercenaries, droids, Stormtroopers or bounty hunters. And they're casters.

The Z fighters, in-universe, have been explicitly stated to use non-magical ki, as opposed to magic or sorcery. Several magic-users do exist in the DB/DBZ universe, and while they can be physically beaten, there's basically no way to stop their powers. If you get cursed, you have to go on a quest to break the curse; if a spellcaster wants to snuff out your life from afar, not much you can do. Martials can blow up planets, but casters can own martials and rearrange the universe. And I think it's safe to assume that Kami and Shenron both count as casters. So again, caster supremacy.

That's the point. Once we define an upper bound to what martials can do, we are accepting the idea that they will inevitably be inferior to casters, who have no upper bound.

Cluedrew
2016-05-23, 04:11 PM
The god-fighter is the butterfly that flaps its wings in Brazil.I love this line.

Also the rest of that post made me think of something else. The martial vs. caster problem is often framed as fighter vs. wizard, which then someone says something like "but the wizard manipulates reality and the fighter hits things with a stick." That isn't actually a problem of martial vs. caster, that is a problem of scoping. It is not "the wizard manipulates reality with magic and the fighter manipulates reality physically" nor is it "the wizard cast fireball and the fighter hits things", either of which would put them on much more even footing.

In other words, martial is divided into a bunch of tricks, while magic is only one. Which means the martials get a smaller piece of their pie.

From that angle the god-martials would not simply be a unstoppable warriors, although that certainly, but a master acrobats and sneaks, a fine contortionists, champions in sprinters and marathons. They can hold their breath like pearl divers and pick out the smallest details from across a room. Of course they would also be artists, stone masons, black smiths and carpenters. All without a drop of magic.

By the time the wizard has finished preparing spells the martial is already done. But if you could teleport me back to town and get me another bag on nails that would be great. Very (very, very) strong is one thing, infinite is another.

Also I see I have been Swordsaged. I don't have a solution to infinitely powerful characters because the only reply to that is infinite power, and that rarely makes for good story in my opinion.

Eldan
2016-05-23, 05:00 PM
To Eldan & Fri: I like the idea of taking it even further and giving different approaches to accomplish the same task. Say the party wants to camp for the night, the wizard can conjure up a building, the cleric prays for the protection of gods, the ranger finds a place that is already safe, the rouge sets traps and the fighter takes a quick powernap and then is good to stand watch for the night (it was only the first day of forced march).

I think by necessessity, such a system would describe the basic effects very broadly. Probably more of a narrative system. So, the effect would not be "create an extraplanar space to sleep in" (Rope Trick), but "create a way to rest safely for a night". That could then be a circle of protection, divine grace, a sacred glade, a really good trap and alarm system or allies guarding you.

Arbane
2016-05-23, 09:40 PM
Also to be considered is the unpopular idea that maybe magic _isn't_ omnipotent.

Max_Killjoy
2016-05-23, 09:52 PM
Also to be considered is the unpopular idea that maybe magic _isn't_ omnipotent.


On the forums for another game/system, some of us made that suggestion, and the backlash was pretty intense. Something about "once you have magic, there are no limits, there can't be any limits, anything is possible!"

Ravian
2016-05-23, 10:27 PM
On the forums for another game/system, some of us made that suggestion, and the backlash was pretty intense. Something about "once you have magic, there are no limits, there can't be any limits, anything is possible!"

This seems like a rather bad idea in general, one of the things generally agreed upon in fantasy writing is that magic should be defined to some degree. If magic can do anything, tension is essentially lost. RPGs aren't exactly the same in that regard, but I think it's rather important that magic be defined with some sort of limits.

Technically D&D does have limits, in that as a Vancian caster they are limited to only so many spells they can cast per day. In it, magic can do most anything, but there is only so much magic one can do. The problem with this approach however is that it's not really a limit so much as a direction, one can theoretically keep leveling up and gaining more and more magic, until the idea of running out of magic becomes laughable. What's more, while magic itself in D&D doesn't scale beyond "epic", many of these epic spells are abstracted to the point of omnipotence.

This does however strike me as a problem. In some games (such as WoD's Mage) magic being limitless isn't a bad idea, but in a game where magic has to be in the same party as fighters, things get much more problematic when magic is limitless, especially given that Martials are expected to have limits due to realism.

Frankly I'm actually a fan of 4e trying to keep every class relevant, but I understand I'm in the minority.


This is why I'm a fan of magic having a cost. If there becomes a reason why you aren't just casually reshaping reality beyond being too low-leveled, than we can start balancing things. Maybe magic comes from life force and so going to big risks killing you or others. Maybe it's more long-term and mortals can use up all their magic in a more permanent way, necessitating one to limit themselves.

Or maybe there just simply is stuff magic can't do. I know plenty of settings and systems that have the hard rule that you can't bring people back from the dead. (Frankly it's only really D&D and super hero comic books that break this rule so often.)

RazorChain
2016-05-24, 03:40 AM
Therein lies the issue. Any martial class that can do all the ridiculous things like make buildings from sand and punch a castle.to dust is very close to being a caster with really specific spells. Even then, some things a caster can do that a martial simply can't, like Wish, Polymorph or straight up Power Word: Kill. Once you reach stuff like that, pretending to be a martial is really a waste of time.

I think this lies in the DnD mindset. You can't kill things in a single stroke. A true martial would in a fight be decapitating things and impaling things and killing things really fast but DnD has a bloated HP system which works against the martial. Then you can have powers like: Killing Blow instead of Powerword kill.

Cosi
2016-05-24, 06:46 AM
Also to be considered is the unpopular idea that maybe magic _isn't_ omnipotent.

I don't think that "limit casters" is a reasonable solution to suggest in a thread about powering up martials, just like "power up martials" isn't a reasonable solution in a thread about limiting casters.


This seems like a rather bad idea in general, one of the things generally agreed upon in fantasy writing is that magic should be defined to some degree. If magic can do anything, tension is essentially lost. RPGs aren't exactly the same in that regard, but I think it's rather important that magic be defined with some sort of limits.

Magic doesn't really need to be defined with explicit limits (from a balance perspective), because it has implicit limits. There's no reason a D&D Wizard couldn't create a ball of acid that corroded people's armor, or summon a magical beast as a minion, or raise the dead. But there aren't spells that do those things, so he can't do them.

The reason to limit magic is a setting design one. If magic has limits (more accurately: rules), then you can talk about how magic interacts with the world. If magic explicitly can't raise the dead (rather than there simply not being a raise dead spell), that's something that characters can meaningfully discuss in the context of the game world.


The problem with this approach however is that it's not really a limit so much as a direction, one can theoretically keep leveling up and gaining more and more magic, until the idea of running out of magic becomes laughable.

So? I don't see a problem with characters increasing in power as they level up. If the high level environment is about dealing with other people's abilities, rather than your own limitations, that's a good thing. It means that high level and low level are different.


Frankly I'm actually a fan of 4e trying to keep every class relevant, but I understand I'm in the minority.

That was a good idea. But the execution sucked. You can make every class relevant without making every class the same.


If there becomes a reason why you aren't just casually reshaping reality beyond being too low-leveled, than we can start balancing things.

This presents a false dichotomy. The choices aren't "limited magic" or "unbalanced magic". You could make martials less limited (for example, they could scale into being Goku or Superman). You could change to troupe play like Ars Magica has, where the expectation is that you will sometimes play a very powerful Wizard and other times play less powerful mundanes. You could mandate everyone get magic at some point. You could have something like Chorae, which present a hard counter to magic.


Or maybe there just simply is stuff magic can't do.

That doesn't help unless it's stuff mundanes can do. If my Wizard can't cast teleport, that doesn't make me want a Fighter, because getting a Fighter doesn't give me teleport. I'll just pick up another Wizard and be sad I don't have teleport.


I know plenty of settings and systems that have the hard rule that you can't bring people back from the dead. (Frankly it's only really D&D and super hero comic books that break this rule so often.)

Also Supernatural. Game of Thrones has resurrection. Gandalf's return in Lord of the Rings might not be an actual return from the dead, but it's narratively similar to one.


I think this lies in the DnD mindset. You can't kill things in a single stroke. A true martial would in a fight be decapitating things and impaling things and killing things really fast but DnD has a bloated HP system which works against the martial. Then you can have powers like: Killing Blow instead of Powerword kill.

I don't think that not getting quick kills is a problem with martials in the abstract. Having duels last a long time is a thing that happens in some settings. It's a problem in 3e, but that's because martials kill people slowly and casters kill people quickly. I could totally imagine a system where combat was intentionally slower (maybe you have to get people to Bloodied before you can save-or-die them).

goto124
2016-05-24, 06:57 AM
I don't think that "limit casters" is a reasonable solution to suggest in a thread about powering up martials, just like "power up martials" isn't a reasonable solution in a thread about limiting casters.

I thought this was a thread about solving the caster-martial discrepancy, not exclusively about powering up martials!

And when a huge part of the problem is that casters are overpowered with no real limits, depowering and limiting casters is at least part of a good solution.

In addition, if we want to solve the caster-martial discrepancy, we need to know what the new limited power of the casters is before we can push martials to that level as well.

If I'm not wrong, DnD at some point turns into rocket tag. Let's say we don't want any more rocket tag either.

Cluedrew
2016-05-24, 07:28 AM
On the Thread's Topic: The thread is about powering up the martials, but that is really only makes sense in given the context of more powerful casters (or I suppose creating a hire power level in a setting without any casters might also work). So while not the main topic the power level of casters is certainly relevant. If one wanted to solve the martial-caster disparity you would have to consider a lot more than just the power level of martials, I just thought it would be interesting to focus in on a part of the problem that often gets less attention.

Max_Killjoy
2016-05-24, 08:39 AM
I thought this was a thread about solving the caster-martial discrepancy, not exclusively about powering up martials!

And when a huge part of the problem is that casters are overpowered with no real limits, depowering and limiting casters is at least part of a good solution.

In addition, if we want to solve the caster-martial discrepancy, we need to know what the new limited power of the casters is before we can push martials to that level as well.

If I'm not wrong, DnD at some point turns into rocket tag. Let's say we don't want any more rocket tag either.

Rocket tag, disjointed progression, power that doesn't scale well...

IMO, you're always going to have these problems in a system that's based on classes and levels, and which purposefully sets out to make characters into "epic" demigods at or just beyond level 20.

Red Fel
2016-05-24, 09:13 AM
On the forums for another game/system, some of us made that suggestion, and the backlash was pretty intense. Something about "once you have magic, there are no limits, there can't be any limits, anything is possible!"

Thing is, this is the default assumption, particularly as a result of D&D. Unless your system explicitly defines the limits and bounds on magic, it is presumed to be capable of anything. Contrast that with, say, Ars Magica, which has a magic system based on what are effectively defined "verbs" and "nouns," with greater abilities requiring the expenditure of a resource that takes long amounts of time to refine; in such a setting, spellcasting is powerful but limited.

If we have a setting where magic is bounded, it becomes possible for a bounded martial to rival or exceed magic. In a setting where magic is not practically bounded, it is not possible for a martial to match it, simply because a martial is defined by bounds.


This is why I'm a fan of magic having a cost. If there becomes a reason why you aren't just casually reshaping reality beyond being too low-leveled, than we can start balancing things. Maybe magic comes from life force and so going to big risks killing you or others. Maybe it's more long-term and mortals can use up all their magic in a more permanent way, necessitating one to limit themselves.

Or maybe there just simply is stuff magic can't do. I know plenty of settings and systems that have the hard rule that you can't bring people back from the dead. (Frankly it's only really D&D and super hero comic books that break this rule so often.)

This is also a fair position, and a good starting point for a limited magic system. Consider, for example, the magic system in Ironclaw, which basically boils down to offensive spells that function as a weapon (e.g. load a Fireball spell into your wand or staff, then launch it) or healing spells (which are not perfect and may have consequences if overused). Alternatively, consider the aforementioned Ars Magica magic system. Further still, consider a magic system in which spells are ritualized; their power is offset by the time and/or resource cost (more than a standard action, because come on, that's nothing). In such settings, where magic is limited by (1) its power, (2) its resource cost, and/or (3) its time cost, a martial character can rival a spellcaster through (1) equivalent power, (2) a lack of resource cost, and/or (3) a lack of time cost, respectively.


I don't think that "limit casters" is a reasonable solution to suggest in a thread about powering up martials, just like "power up martials" isn't a reasonable solution in a thread about limiting casters.

In D&D, that's true. Limiting casters doesn't benefit martials so much as it hurts everyone, but moreso martials than casters.

But in a hypothetical vacuum, where "martial" and "caster" are not defined as they are in D&D, limiting casters isn't as much of an issue. This is particularly so if the thought exercise is "How do we create a martial who can match a caster?" Because, here's that point again - if martials are limited and casters are not, a martial will never match a caster outside of limited and imbalanced optimization. (E.g. highly optimized Barbarian vs. poorly optimized Sorcerer.) So in order for this thought exercise to be anything other than futile, we must assume that there can be a reasonable limitation upon the power of casters.


Magic doesn't really need to be defined with explicit limits (from a balance perspective), because it has implicit limits. There's no reason a D&D Wizard couldn't create a ball of acid that corroded people's armor, or summon a magical beast as a minion, or raise the dead. But there aren't spells that do those things, so he can't do them.

... But there are such spells.

Also, you say it has "implicit limits," but in D&D, I fail to see them. That's why we need to take this out of a D&D mindset.


The reason to limit magic is a setting design one. If magic has limits (more accurately: rules), then you can talk about how magic interacts with the world. If magic explicitly can't raise the dead (rather than there simply not being a raise dead spell), that's something that characters can meaningfully discuss in the context of the game world.

The reason to limit magic, for the purpose of this thought exercise, is to come up with a concept that reasonably captures the idea of a "caster" as distinct from a "martial," while still allowing for the two to be rivals in power, rather than one to utterly dominate the other.


So? I don't see a problem with characters increasing in power as they level up. If the high level environment is about dealing with other people's abilities, rather than your own limitations, that's a good thing. It means that high level and low level are different.

This is why martials can't have nice things. "I don't see a problem with characters increasing in power as they level up" here means "I don't see a problem with the fact that the Wizard can rewrite reality as he levels, and the Fighter can hit things a bit harder." That's the problem we're trying to address.


This presents a false dichotomy. The choices aren't "limited magic" or "unbalanced magic". You could make martials less limited (for example, they could scale into being Goku or Superman).

Neither Goku nor Superman can beat someone who can rewrite reality, unless said person was dumb enough to abandon his godlike powers and face them in personal combat.


You could change to troupe play like Ars Magica has, where the expectation is that you will sometimes play a very powerful Wizard and other times play less powerful mundanes.

This doesn't mean that the less powerful mundanes are able to rival the Hermetic in power. Quite the contrary. It simply means you don't get to play your Hermetic while he's farming vis.


You could mandate everyone get magic at some point.

Which the OP explicitly wants to avoid.


You could have something like Chorae, which present a hard counter to magic.

Don't know that one, can't comment.


That doesn't help unless it's stuff mundanes can do. If my Wizard can't cast teleport, that doesn't make me want a Fighter, because getting a Fighter doesn't give me teleport. I'll just pick up another Wizard and be sad I don't have teleport.

And this is fair. The caster's toolbox should differ from the martial's. The problem arises when the caster's toolbox can solve any problem, and the martial's can only solve the problems of (1) there's a person over there who needs to stop being alive, and (2) there's an object over there that needs to stop being intact. When the caster can do all that and so much more, there's no need to play a martial at all except for fluff reasons. That's the problem, and that's the point.


On the Thread's Topic: The thread is about powering up the martials, but that is really only makes sense in given the context of more powerful casters (or I suppose creating a hire power level in a setting without any casters might also work). So while not the main topic the power level of casters is certainly relevant. If one wanted to solve the martial-caster disparity you would have to consider a lot more than just the power level of martials, I just thought it would be interesting to focus in on a part of the problem that often gets less attention.

Since when does "How do we make martials stronger" get less attention? In nearly every thread on martial/caster balance, somebody will propose nerfing casters, and somebody will respond as Cosi did, that nerfing casters is a terrible idea that hurts everyone, and the discussion will generally turn to "Okay, so how do martials get stronger?"

We can give casters a higher power threshold. We can even assume it. If magic couldn't do anything martials can't do, there'd be little point in being a squishy caster. So let's assume casters are capable of amazing feats. The question becomes, "What are the limitations on casters?" If the answer, explicitly or in practice, is, "None," then the martial will never truly rival the caster. If we can have limits, however, then the martial has a chance of offsetting his relative lack of power with a relative lack of limits.

GrayDeath
2016-05-24, 09:30 AM
A quite apt description.

One of the reasons our groups almost always,o only allow spontaneous casters.

They have more tricks than Martials, but a limited amount. In that areas they can solve any problem, but its not unlimited in scope.

Another Variant we often used is the "Wizards are always specialists", with quite more restrictive choices thanr egular (Wizards choose 3 Schools, fitting to their Academy, and these are the ONLY SPell Schools they can EVER learn spells from).
Same works with Clerics or Druids. As simpelst variant replace their Spell progression with "Sorcerer progression chosen from their SPell lists" and done.


True, we are still working on the beefing up.

Our go atm is that all Noncasters gain 2 general "Bonus Abilities" that for example give them more HP, Skillpts, better Saves etc and then each Class gets some Bonuses on top of that (for example: Fighters may either gain the Ability to swat aside Spells if they manage a fitting roll, make all their weapons become more powerful or simply gain DR/Fast healing).

All of them are passive or at will, ergo their abilities are "limitless", they never reach the raw universe commanding power of a Caster, who in turn is more limited to number and type of effects.

It will never make them all EQUAL without massive Changes in either the System or all classes (or both) but it can reduce the disparity quite a bit.

Cosi
2016-05-24, 10:04 AM
And when a huge part of the problem is that casters are overpowered with no real limits, depowering and limiting casters is at least part of a good solution.

Casters have very real limits. They can grow in power essentially infinitely, but at any given point they have limits. They can't always use plane shift, meaning that before 9th/13th/whatever level, they are limited to the Prime (or whatever other plane they start on, barring portals). Wizards don't get raise dead. Clerics don't get reincarnate. Druids don't get planar binding.


If I'm not wrong, DnD at some point turns into rocket tag. Let's say we don't want any more rocket tag either.

That's probably a topic for another thread. How fast and lethal combat is is basically orthogonal to the balance of Fighters and Wizards. There are Fighter builds that end fights quickly (i.e. Uberchargers) and there are Wizard builds that end fights slowly (i.e. non-metamagic Blasters).


If we have a setting where magic is bounded, it becomes possible for a bounded martial to rival or exceed magic. In a setting where magic is not practically bounded, it is not possible for a martial to match it, simply because a martial is defined by bounds.

Mundane is defined by bounds. Realistic is defined by bounds. Martial is just a word for a set of classes that includes Knights, Monks, Barbarians, and Rangers. And while many versions of those classes have been limited, they don't have to be. Elspeth, Knight-Errant (http://magiccards.info/md1/en/13.html) is literally a Knight, but she is (was) completely capable of fighting Gods and going on adventures across the planes. She fought those Gods in melee with a sword, but she totally fought them.


Because, here's that point again - if martials are limited and casters are not, a martial will never match a caster outside of limited and imbalanced optimization. ... So in order for this thought exercise to be anything other than futile, we must assume that there can be a reasonable limitation upon the power of casters.

Aren't you missing an obvious solution? If limited martials can't match unlimited casters, shouldn't we at least consider removing the limits from martials?


... But there are such spells.

You can do acid based blasting, but there is not a spell with the specific effect "like fireball, but acid damage and an anti-armor debuff". That's a thing magic doesn't do. Not necessarily a thing magic can't do, as you can do all the component parts, but not something magic does. If you assume the Magical Beast thing to mean "like planar binding, but for Magical Beasts", that is again something that does not literally exist. And while there is magic that raises the dead, it is not (with the exception of wish) on the Wizard list.

It's possible that I'm forgetting some spells, but the point does in general stand: there are things you can't do with magic. Those things might be pretty specific, but they do exist.


"I don't see a problem with characters increasing in power as they level up" here means "I don't see a problem with the fact that the Wizard can rewrite reality as he levels, and the Fighter can hit things a bit harder."

I know I've had this discussion with you before, so you should know that my stance on this issue is that you should just give martials whatever magic (or Ki, or whatever) powers you feel they need and have done. It is true that if you require Fighters to be "realistic" or "mundane" and do not make similar restrictions on Wizards, Wizards will eventually become better than Fighters. But the solution to that is not to put limits on Wizards. Or rather, that is not the only solution.


Neither Goku nor Superman can beat someone who can rewrite reality, unless said person was dumb enough to abandon his godlike powers and face them in personal combat.

Superman is totally capable of fighting reality warpers. Take a look at the durability section of his respect thread (https://www.reddit.com/r/respectthreads/comments/3ovxvl/respect_superman_complete_postcrisis/). Dude tanks storms that mutate matter and energy, matter manipulation, and various blasts ranging from "nukes" to "end of the universe". Comic-book Superman is 100% capable of throwing down with whatever group of characters you want.


This doesn't mean that the less powerful mundanes are able to rival the Hermetic in power. Quite the contrary. It simply means you don't get to play your Hermetic while he's farming vis.

The Ars Magica solution isn't about mitigating imbalance, it's about making imbalance not an issue. It's not a solution if you're absolutely sold on the D&D one player one character model, but it does resolve the issue of Wizards and Fighters as it implicates game balance.


Don't know that one, can't comment.

Chorae are from Bakker's Second Apocalypse series. The mages in that series are quite impressive by typical fantasy standards. An average mage can fly, destroy armies with fire, communicate telepathically over hundreds of miles, control the minds of others, and has various defensive wards. More powerful mages can teleport, summon demons, travel through shadow, or create permanent illusions that hide mountains. However, mages are kept in check by the existence of Chorae, which render the wielder immune to sorcery and kill mages on touch.

Effectively, it forces you to have a guy without magic to deal with soldiers or monsters that are holding Chorae. It's not a perfect solution, as it doesn't do anything to actively make martials more useful and there are various techniques you can use to kill people with Chorae as a mage (for example, collapsing the roof of the building they're in).


When the caster can do all that and so much more, there's no need to play a martial at all except for fluff reasons.

That seems like the wrong framing. It's not a problem with the martial that the caster has variety of options, it's a problem with the martial that he only has two. Even if you cut out the Wizard entirely, the Fighter would still be boring.

Red Fel
2016-05-24, 10:23 AM
Mundane is defined by bounds. Realistic is defined by bounds. Martial is just a word for a set of classes that includes Knights, Monks, Barbarians, and Rangers. And while many versions of those classes have been limited, they don't have to be. Elspeth, Knight-Errant (http://magiccards.info/md1/en/13.html) is literally a Knight, but she is (was) completely capable of fighting Gods and going on adventures across the planes. She fought those Gods in melee with a sword, but she totally fought them.

Not knowing the example, I have to ask: Were these gods literally rewriting reality around her while she swung a sword, or were they fighting her on her level and on her terms?


Aren't you missing an obvious solution? If limited martials can't match unlimited casters, shouldn't we at least consider removing the limits from martials?

I happen to agree. However, the OP has specified that, for purposes of this conversation, martial has limits. It is limited to things that can be done with the body and inner power. Psychic powers are out, fireballs are out, and so forth. That's a limit.


You can do acid based blasting, but there is not a spell with the specific effect "like fireball, but acid damage and an anti-armor debuff". That's a thing magic doesn't do. Not necessarily a thing magic can't do, as you can do all the component parts, but not something magic does. If you assume the Magical Beast thing to mean "like planar binding, but for Magical Beasts", that is again something that does not literally exist. And while there is magic that raises the dead, it is not (with the exception of wish) on the Wizard list.

I'm almost certain that if the spells don't exist, they can be modified (e.g. by metamagic) to do the things, but my knowledge of spells isn't encyclopedic, so I'll concede that point.

That said, you've conflated "caster" and "D&D Wizard" in your example. You went from "casters can't do these things" to "there is no Wizard spell that does these things." (Also, we're ignoring the possibility of independent research that brings in spells from non-Wizard lists, because headache.)


It's possible that I'm forgetting some spells, but the point does in general stand: there are things you can't do with magic. Those things might be pretty specific, but they do exist.

There are things a Wizard can't do with magic, barring certain shenanigans, sure.


I know I've had this discussion with you before, so you should know that my stance on this issue is that you should just give martials whatever magic (or Ki, or whatever) powers you feel they need and have done. It is true that if you require Fighters to be "realistic" or "mundane" and do not make similar restrictions on Wizards, Wizards will eventually become better than Fighters. But the solution to that is not to put limits on Wizards. Or rather, that is not the only solution.

And you know that I agree with this position. However, the OP has already defined one half of the situation - martials must be limited. I happen to prefer a scenario where they are not, so that they can be raised to be on fair footing with casters, but the OP has ruled that out. So that leaves the other half of the situation - for limited martials to rival casters, casters must likewise be limited.


Superman is totally capable of fighting reality warpers. Take a look at the durability section of his respect thread (https://www.reddit.com/r/respectthreads/comments/3ovxvl/respect_superman_complete_postcrisis/). Dude tanks storms that mutate matter and energy, matter manipulation, and various blasts ranging from "nukes" to "end of the universe". Comic-book Superman is 100% capable of throwing down with whatever group of characters you want.

But see Mr. Mxyzptlk, the definition of a reality-warper, whom Supes can only beat by tricking him into saying his name backwards. None of Superman's powers can stop him; only outsmarting him based on Mxyzptlk's own rules will do the job. The only way to beat him is to use a skillset totally independent of the martial/caster divide, because Superman cannot match his caster abilities.


The Ars Magica solution isn't about mitigating imbalance, it's about making imbalance not an issue. It's not a solution if you're absolutely sold on the D&D one player one character model, but it does resolve the issue of Wizards and Fighters as it implicates game balance.

Fair point.


Chorae are from Bakker's Second Apocalypse series. The mages in that series are quite impressive by typical fantasy standards. An average mage can fly, destroy armies with fire, communicate telepathically over hundreds of miles, control the minds of others, and has various defensive wards. More powerful mages can teleport, summon demons, travel through shadow, or create permanent illusions that hide mountains. However, mages are kept in check by the existence of Chorae, which render the wielder immune to sorcery and kill mages on touch.

Effectively, it forces you to have a guy without magic to deal with soldiers or monsters that are holding Chorae. It's not a perfect solution, as it doesn't do anything to actively make martials more useful and there are various techniques you can use to kill people with Chorae as a mage (for example, collapsing the roof of the building they're in).

So, basically, mages as Superman, but their power is offset by the existence of Kryptonite. And as a result of Kryptonite's widespread dissemination, the only people who can get things done in some places are non-Supermans. Makes sense - martials are basically the specialists you call in when you can't bring your power to bear.


That seems like the wrong framing. It's not a problem with the martial that the caster has variety of options, it's a problem with the martial that he only has two. Even if you cut out the Wizard entirely, the Fighter would still be boring.

Still agree with you. Unfortunately, see OP's position.

Flickerdart
2016-05-24, 11:43 AM
Making spellcasters weaker is a solution, but it's not an interesting solution.

Consider: because magic in the abstract sense is unlimited, casters have a possible spectrum of power that looks like this:

Lame cantrips guy ------------------------------------------------------ World-crushing ubergod

Because hitting dudes with swords is a limit, sword-dudes have a possible spectrum of power that looks like this:

Pathetic stick guy ------------ Legendary swordmurderer

Balancing a game on the lower end of the spectrum is easy:

Lame cantrips guy -----|------------------------------------------------- World-crushing ubergod
Pathetic stick guy ------|----- Legendary swordmurderer

Balancing a game on the higher end of the spectrum is impossible because the sword guy spectrum runs out:

Lame cantrips guy ---------------------------------------------------|--- World-crushing ubergod
Pathetic stick guy ------------ Legendary swordmurderer



Discussion about how to bring spellcasters down to the martial level is not interesting because it has an obvious solution. There are loads and loads of systems where "guy with spells" and "guy with swords" are balanced at this lower level of power. The interesting question - which this thread is about - is what to do with martials when the desired power level approaches the ubergod side of the spectrum, and you want to keep the martials recognizably non-magical.

Max_Killjoy
2016-05-24, 12:22 PM
I don't think it's possible to bring a character up to that highest level and have them be "still purely martial".

Doing the things that are done at the high end of the magic spectrum is impossible without the power to alter reality, and trying to make it "still purely martial" is just slapping a different SFX on the same power.

Red Fel
2016-05-24, 12:32 PM
I don't think it's possible to bring a character up to that highest level and have them be "still purely martial".

Doing the things that are done at the high end of the magic spectrum is impossible without the power to alter reality, and trying to make it "still purely martial" is just slapping a different SFX on the same power.

Which is okay. For example, one version of Superman punched reality so hard it broke. He literally shattered reality with his fist. I don't mean some sort of object reflecting reality, or the crystallized essence of reality, I mean actual reality. That's basically magic. He basically did a magic thing.

Which in my mind is fine. I have no problems calling a character martial who uses martial arts to telekinetically control elements, or uses dance to invoke the spirits, or has such overwhelming force of personality and sense of self that he can literally will reality back to how it was before magic happened. These are just magic with a "martial" label taped over the package, and to me, that's fine.

Admittedly, this is a somewhat extreme corollary of the "guy at the gym" fallacy. Even if we're willing to accept that the super-martial can leap from one planet to another, or punch a hole in a mountain, or wield a continent as a weapon, these are all extensions (extreme, but still) of things an ordinary person could do with NI stats. Even with that, we still can't see a martial as going beyond that. He can't use telekinesis, because no amount of NI stats would allow an ostensible human to move objects with his mind; he can't summon demons, same reason; he can't cancel gravity, same reason. Caster can, martial cannot.

And that's an unfortunate thing. I have no issue with "martial" being another label, like "arcane caster," "divine caster," "psychic," and so forth, where the change is the focus for the abilities and the general style thereof. But that's explicitly not what the OP has requested.

Flickerdart
2016-05-24, 12:50 PM
He can't use telekinesis, because no amount of NI stats would allow an ostensible human to move objects with his mind; he can't summon demons, same reason; he can't cancel gravity, same reason. Caster can, martial cannot.
Martials can't do these things, but they can accomplish the same thing these things accomplish.

Telekinesis: This is just moving objects. If running over to the object, picking it up, moving it, putting it down, and then running back really really fast doesn't cut it, the martial can just manipulate the substance the object is suspended in (typically air) by strategically striking at the correct molecules of the substance.

Summoning: Same idea - run over to where the desired being is, drag him back to where you want him to be, punch him in the face if he gets uppity.

Cancel gravity: Gravity is caused by mass. The martial can add and remove mass in strategic areas to achieve a similar effect. If he needs to cancel gravity on just himself, he can use muscles.

This is the idea between god-tier caster and martial balance - you don't need to be able to do the same thing, just get to the same point.

Arbane
2016-05-24, 01:26 PM
Some further reading, from the Paizo forums. (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1C2o97IRA92vSpNoN73JmXrnpFfnZsSiaMZTB0uhPK8A/edit#) (So it's mostly about Pathfinder's LFQW problem)

My own conclusion: Either spellcasters need to to be beaten with the Nerf Bat until they scream for mercy (then beaten some more), or martials need to be upgraded to Solar Exalted, Irish mythology, or at least the higher-budget wuxia movies.

Or preferrably both.

Cosi
2016-05-24, 01:50 PM
I happen to agree. However, the OP has specified that, for purposes of this conversation, martial has limits. It is limited to things that can be done with the body and inner power. Psychic powers are out, fireballs are out, and so forth. That's a limit.

"Psychic powers" is just a power source. It does some stuff (like read minds), but that stuff could be done other ways. For example, in Second Apocalypse the Dûnyain train to the point that they can accurately assess people's thoughts with a glance, and identify shape-shifters from their voicetone. It's possible that there's some aspect of biology involved, but it's at least mostly training.

fireball is just a thing martials are good at naturally: hurting people and breaking things.


There are things a Wizard can't do with magic, barring certain shenanigans, sure.

Which is sort of the point. Even if magic doesn't have explicit limits (i.e. "no resurrection"), it still has implicit ones. If you're using spells rather than free-form magic, that is.


But see Mr. Mxyzptlk, the definition of a reality-warper, whom Supes can only beat by tricking him into saying his name backwards. None of Superman's powers can stop him; only outsmarting him based on Mxyzptlk's own rules will do the job. The only way to beat him is to use a skillset totally independent of the martial/caster divide, because Superman cannot match his caster abilities.

That's just a puzzle monster and/or higher level threat. Wizards aren't inherently underpowered because a 1st level Wizard has to resort to shenanigans to beat a Great Wyrm Dragon. It's just higher level than a 1st level Wizard.


Doing the things that are done at the high end of the magic spectrum is impossible without the power to alter reality, and trying to make it "still purely martial" is just slapping a different SFX on the same power.

Not necessarily. Superman, Martian Manhunter, and Green Latern are all on the same team, and all roughly equally powerful. But they have different ability sets. Green Latern can make constructs out of green force, Superman has lazer eyes, and Martian Manhunter can shape-shift.

Arbane
2016-05-24, 01:54 PM
Not necessarily. Superman, Martian Manhunter, and Green Latern are all on the same team, and all roughly equally powerful. But they have different ability sets. Green Latern can make constructs out of green force, Superman has lazer eyes, and Martian Manhunter can shape-shift.

They've also got Batman and Green Arrow, and keeping them relevant is where the writer's gotta earn their money.

Max_Killjoy
2016-05-24, 02:07 PM
"Psychic powers" is just a power source. It does some stuff (like read minds), but that stuff could be done other ways. For example, in Second Apocalypse the Dûnyain train to the point that they can accurately assess people's thoughts with a glance, and identify shape-shifters from their voicetone. It's possible that there's some aspect of biology involved, but it's at least mostly training.


And that "training" is just an SFX slapped over what's effectively magic, or a superpower -- things that real-world real people can't do, that you're making up an in-story enabler for.

Cosi
2016-05-24, 04:41 PM
They've also got Batman and Green Arrow, and keeping them relevant is where the writer's gotta earn their money.

Batman is an Artificer. When he needs to beat down Darkseid or someone else at Superman's level, he pulls out Iron Man style super suits. IDK about Green Arrow, but he probably has a similar deal.

Also, you could model them as cohorts for the real heroes.


And that "training" is just an SFX slapped over what's effectively magic, or a superpower -- things that real-world real people can't do, that you're making up an in-story enabler for.

Uh, sure. But that way of looking at things means you can never have martials that are good.

Cluedrew
2016-05-24, 05:10 PM
What we have here is a break down in communication. I apologise and will attempt to fix the situation.
However, the OP has specified that, for purposes of this conversation, martial has limits. It is limited to things that can be done with the body and inner power. Psychic powers are out, fireballs are out, and so forth. That's a limit.Think of martial power as like a cylinder. The goal is to push the top of the cylinder up while keeping the sides from moving out to much, increase the power while still keeping them as martials. Actually we are going to need to also to add another axis of expansion, making them more versatile.


And that "training" is just an SFX slapped over what's effectively magic, or a superpower -- things that real-world real people can't do, that you're making up an in-story enabler for.This is actually true, but it is not a problem. You see (as I see it) magic, training, superpowers and so on are all just "miracle exceptions" that allow things that are not possible in reality to occur in a story. The only difference is the feel we get from them.

So within this context my original question could be rephrased as something like, "How can we increase the power of the miracle exception of training without making it seem like a different sort of exception?" Which is a little bit awkward.

Actually I've written some very non-standard martials myself and am fine with them, but some other people seem not to be so I was interested in exploring the design space closest to the "pure martial" and that is what I have been focusing on that here. I would say more but I'm out of time.

Max_Killjoy
2016-05-24, 05:22 PM
Uh, sure. But that way of looking at things means you can never have martials that are good.


"Good"?

We're not talking about good, we're talking about near-demigods. When you reach the level of power under discussion, it's all just special effects for the impossible.

The only way that "martials" are limited here is if you say that only certain SFX can exceed a certain threshold of inhuman ability.

TheCountAlucard
2016-05-24, 05:59 PM
We're not talking about good, we're talking about near-demigods.Meaningless. As a reminder, most demigods (and quite a number of full-on gods) were not "reality warpers." They punched, stabbed, threw, wrestled, lifted, talked, and thought their way out of problems.

When Herakles slew the Hydra, did he tear open a portal to another dimension in which to place its final, immortal head? No - he dug a pit, tossed the head in, then put a rock over the top.

Even godhood is a low bar - Thor either flies from place to place, or employs a chariot pulled by goats. He doesn't really teleport so much.

Frankly though, I don't think anyone should be an unlimited-power reality warper, because that crap is boring. Even the nigh-omnipotent characters I do like (Q, Bill Cipher, Q again Discord) are really only enjoyable because of the constraints put on them.

Max_Killjoy
2016-05-24, 06:07 PM
Meaningless. As a reminder, most demigods (and quite a number of full-on gods) were not "reality warpers." They punched, stabbed, threw, wrestled, lifted, talked, and thought their way out of problems.

When Herakles slew the Hydra, did he tear open a portal to another dimension in which to place its final, immortal head? No - he dug a pit, tossed the head in, then put a rock over the top.

Even godhood is a low bar - Thor either flies from place to place, or employs a chariot pulled by goats. He doesn't really teleport so much.

Frankly though, I don't think anyone should be an unlimited-power reality warper, because that crap is boring. Even the nigh-omnipotent characters I do like (Q, Bill Cipher, Q again Discord) are really only enjoyable because of the constraints put on them.


On the demigod reference, I was using it in the context of the way they're presented in games like D&D, rather than Herk or the like.

TheCountAlucard
2016-05-24, 06:18 PM
On the demigod reference, I was using it in the context of the way they're presented in games like D&D, rather than Herk or the like.Even D&D specifically (let alone "games like D&D") isn't consistent in presenting its gods in that fashion, though. Not even remotely.

Max_Killjoy
2016-05-24, 06:20 PM
OK, you win. Enjoy.

goto124
2016-05-24, 07:18 PM
If we're talking about epic levels (DnD level 20+), I think we should just let martials have 'magic' abilities, refluff as required (e.g. punching reality really hard bends it to your will, it's not any more ridiculous than being able to train your mind until speaking a few words bends reality), and play something similar to Exalted.

Really, at that level lots of things are fairly ridiculous.

Max_Killjoy
2016-05-24, 08:51 PM
If we're talking about epic levels (DnD level 20+), I think we should just let martials have 'magic' abilities, refluff as required (e.g. punching reality really hard bends it to your will, it's not any more ridiculous than being able to train your mind until speaking a few words bends reality), and play something similar to Exalted.

Really, at that level lots of things are fairly ridiculous.


That's kinda what I was getting at, in part.

The other solution is to reign in the reality-bending.

goto124
2016-05-24, 08:55 PM
Isn't reality-bending the point of epic levels, where PCs and NPCs are more or less (demi)gods going at one another? XD

Arbane
2016-05-24, 09:06 PM
Meaningless. As a reminder, most demigods (and quite a number of full-on gods) were not "reality warpers." They punched, stabbed, threw, wrestled, lifted, talked, and thought their way out of problems.

(SNIP)
Frankly though, I don't think anyone should be an unlimited-power reality warper, because that crap is boring. Even the nigh-omnipotent characters I do like (Q, Bill Cipher, Q again Discord) are really only enjoyable because of the constraints put on them.

It's worth noting that most actual mythological GODS don't have as wide a range of powers as a high-level D&D wizard.

Alent
2016-05-24, 11:48 PM
It's worth noting that most actual mythological GODS don't have as wide a range of powers as a high-level D&D wizard.

This is probably one of the most legitimate arguments for parting out the Wizard toolkit and spreading it around a little while taking some of the wizard's reality creation powers out of the game.

Not exactly what the OP is looking for, I know, but at the same time you make the martial a Wuxia superstar at the pinnacle of mortal achievement, you have to take out the spells that make the Wizard the real DM. :smallfrown:

Frozen_Feet
2016-05-25, 06:38 AM
It's worth noting that most actual mythological GODS don't have as wide a range of powers as a high-level D&D wizard.

It's worth noting that many D&D gods didn't have as wide range of powers as high level 3rd Ed wizards. Neither did Pre-3rd Ed wizards for the most part. Wizards in particular and casters in general were beneficiary of extremely large power creep between editions. So were gods, too, actually.

In early D&D, being a "god-tier martial" was easy. You put on strength-enhancing belt and gauntlets and then wielded a magic hammer, just like a certain Scandinavian god, and at Fighter level 8 or so you could beat down Lolth and greater demons. And if some wizard was feeling uppity, you were faster than them most likely, so you threw your hammer at them before they could cast and pummeled their squishy wizard body into oblivion.

Flickerdart
2016-05-25, 09:16 AM
And if some wizard was feeling uppity, you were faster than them most likely, so you threw your hammer at them before they could cast and pummeled their squishy wizard body into oblivion.

Honestly, this just takes us back to the One Punch Man dilemma - you can punch the wizard and win if you are in the same place as the wizard. If the wizard decided to enact his ritual to turn the world's ice cream into styrofoam in the safety of his hotel room then it doesn't matter how good the fighter's initiative score is, or how hard he can punch.

This is the lack of strategic power that martials need to overcome.

Max_Killjoy
2016-05-25, 09:18 AM
Honestly, this just takes us back to the One Punch Man dilemma - you can punch the wizard and win if you are in the same place as the wizard. If the wizard decided to enact his ritual to turn the world's ice cream into styrofoam in the safety of his hotel room then it doesn't matter how good the fighter's initiative score is, or how hard he can punch.

This is the lack of strategic power that martials need to overcome.


Or that casters shouldn't have in the first place.

Flickerdart
2016-05-25, 11:01 AM
Or that casters shouldn't have in the first place.
Wizards and gods in stories have always been able to:

View a remote location.
Send minions to remote locations to do things for them.
Move at great speeds, through exotic movement modes, or even instantaneously.
Create something from nothing.
Bewitch and control minds.


These are iconic abilities, and they are also abilities with immense strategic-level power. Should one person be able to do all of this? No. Should just anyone be able to do one of these? No. But above a certain level of power, the lack of such abilities significantly damages the fiction.

As I keep saying, it's fine to have a game where fireball and swordmurder are the extent of the characters' powers. But if all you do is jack up the damage dice of the fireball and the swordmurder, you're not playing on a different power level. Conceptually, the fighter isn't linear; the fighter is flat. And there are lots of games like this, and it's okay to have games like this, and if you like games like this then find games like this and play them.

In a game that isn't like that, such as D&D, where levelling is expected to bring scope progression, you can't just add numbers. The wizard doesn't add numbers; the wizard progresses in scope. The fighter just hits things better. This is a problem, because the promise that's extended to the wizards is not extended to the fighters. Taking away that promise is not a satisfactory solution, because you've turned the game into a different type of game. And the people who like that different type of game could always go and play such a game from the start.

Max_Killjoy
2016-05-25, 11:27 AM
Fiction and a tabletop game are not the same medium.

What works in a novel or movie doesn't always work in a game.

And those iconic abilities -- quite often they're the province of someone who would be an NPC, and not a PC, if ported over to a game.

Flickerdart
2016-05-25, 11:31 AM
Fiction and a tabletop game are not the same medium.
What works in a novel or movie doesn't always work in a game.
"Fiction" is not a medium. "Novel" is a medium. Your tabletop game has a fiction, just like a book does.


And those iconic abilities -- quite often they're the province of someone who would be an NPC, and not a PC, if ported over to a game.
So what? Why is a game where PCs have strategic-level abilities so impossible in your mind?

Max_Killjoy
2016-05-25, 11:50 AM
"Fiction" is not a medium. "Novel" is a medium. Your tabletop game has a fiction, just like a book does.


Pedantry does nothing for a discussion. But if you'd rather nitpick than address the actual point, you can take your "internet win" and enjoy it.

The point, which was quite clear, is that what works in a book or a movie, does not always work for a game. A GM is not an author or director, and there's no outline or script that the PCs can be made to follow.




So what? Why is a game where PCs have strategic-level abilities so impossible in your mind?



Remote or special perception kills mystery plots -- unless you keep throwing special blocks at it and frustrating the players by making their powers pointless.

"Raise dead" kills the drama of death, unless you keep throwing "but you can't raise THIS person because of a reason I just came up with... again".

Sending minions removes the need for the players to go do something themselves, unless you keep killing or thwarting their minions.

Teleportation, unless tightly constrained, is a "got out of trouble" card.

And so on.


There's a reason these are "plot powers" reserved to specific characters in fiction -- usually not the central protagonist.

Lvl 2 Expert
2016-05-25, 12:50 PM
But this topic was not about depowering wizards, I hope. It was about how a martial character, someone largely obeying the laws of physics, the technology level of a medieval fantasy setting and if at all possible some remnant of the limits of human biology, could stand at the same power level. So this is roughly what we have to deal with:


Wizards and gods in stories have always been able to:

View a remote location.
Send minions to remote locations to do things for them.
Move at great speeds, through exotic movement modes, or even instantaneously.
Create something from nothing.
Bewitch and control minds.


The first thing I'd give our martial is political clout. More martials, basically. If the wizard gets willing help from the fabric of the universe itself this person should at least get some help from a few humans. Let's not make her a ruling monarch though, storywise she needs to have her hands free to deal with important matters herself. An heir to the throne is better, those would historically often lead the armed forces. And if you go back further than say 1300 or so military leaders would often still end up actually fighting the battle, leading from the front. Plus while they have little official power, nobody will disobey the person next in line to being end boss of the kingdom.

Now they can send their own minions, have some form of information about and control of places they are not currently at, and they can get their hands on any common/non-legendary item.

Next thing I'm tacking on is engineering. Da Vinci style contraptions, not just drawn, but actually constructed. The first prototype by the martials own hands, the later batches by the previously mentioned lots of other people. It's always a guess what you can get away with, but with a little fast talking at the GM you should be able to get a delta glider, some ultra concealable toxic weapons and a mindreading proof helmet for yourself, and siege equipment and some tricks to simplify your supply lines for your armies. O, and invent an optic telegraph, towers manned by people with signaling flags. Either that or invest heavily in pigeons.

While we're on the subject of animals. What's a knight without a steed? Get some near-impossible handle animal skills in there. Give her the ability to call her horse, hawk and dogs from kilometers away. The hawk needs to understand commands for finding random stuff. Is the enemy close on her heels? Where is the nearest village? Dogs can track escaping enemies and even sort of cold trails, and a little knowledge nature can find you food and water and sometimes even a passage through the mountains, but a bird can find everything. And the horse is of course a famous creature, faster than any other non magical transportation. This allows the wizard to still be at the destination before the martial, but it does not allow them minions as backup (unless they had more on location, but two can play at that game). Preferably the character is also really good with wild animals and even mythical creatures. Talk the dragon into firing at the wizard that summoned it.

Fighting skill is only the topping on the cake. Lots of dodging will be needed, plus either power or accuracy and either speed or range.

If you translate this back to D&D3.X this means making a martial who's good at pretty much everything any martial an do, has taken leadership about a dozen times and would still be defeated by the real game breaking spells, but if I wanted to make a mighty wizard slaying mortal without weaknesses (you know, a boring person) in a story, this is how I'd build them.

JoeJ
2016-05-25, 01:16 PM
The problem I have with the question as initially posed is that it's supposed to be system agnostic and the problem of martial/caster disparity doesn't exist in a system agnostic way. Even limiting it to just those games that have something like magic, it's not generally true that magic users are noticeably more powerful than other characters.

Max_Killjoy
2016-05-25, 01:33 PM
But this topic was not about depowering wizards, I hope. It was about how a martial character, someone largely obeying the laws of physics, the technology level of a medieval fantasy setting and if at all possible some remnant of the limits of human biology, could stand at the same power level. So this is roughly what we have to deal with:



The first thing I'd give our martial is political clout. More martials, basically. If the wizard gets willing help from the fabric of the universe itself this person should at least get some help from a few humans. Let's not make her a ruling monarch though, storywise she needs to have her hands free to deal with important matters herself. An heir to the throne is better, those would historically often lead the armed forces. And if you go back further than say 1300 or so military leaders would often still end up actually fighting the battle, leading from the front. Plus while they have little official power, nobody will disobey the person next in line to being end boss of the kingdom.

Now they can send their own minions, have some form of information about and control of places they are not currently at, and they can get their hands on any common/non-legendary item.

Next thing I'm tacking on is engineering. Da Vinci style contraptions, not just drawn, but actually constructed. The first prototype by the martials own hands, the later batches by the previously mentioned lots of other people. It's always a guess what you can get away with, but with a little fast talking at the GM you should be able to get a delta glider, some ultra concealable toxic weapons and a mindreading proof helmet for yourself, and siege equipment and some tricks to simplify your supply lines for your armies. O, and invent an optic telegraph, towers manned by people with signaling flags. Either that or invest heavily in pigeons.

While we're on the subject of animals. What's a knight without a steed? Get some near-impossible handle animal skills in there. Give her the ability to call her horse, hawk and dogs from kilometers away. The hawk needs to understand commands for finding random stuff. Is the enemy close on her heels? Where is the nearest village? Dogs can track escaping enemies and even sort of cold trails, and a little knowledge nature can find you food and water and sometimes even a passage through the mountains, but a bird can find everything. And the horse is of course a famous creature, faster than any other non magical transportation. This allows the wizard to still be at the destination before the martial, but it does not allow them minions as backup (unless they had more on location, but two can play at that game). Preferably the character is also really good with wild animals and even mythical creatures. Talk the dragon into firing at the wizard that summoned it.

Fighting skill is only the topping on the cake. Lots of dodging will be needed, plus either power or accuracy and either speed or range.

If you translate this back to D&D3.X this means making a martial who's good at pretty much everything any martial an do, has taken leadership about a dozen times and would still be defeated by the real game breaking spells, but if I wanted to make a mighty wizard slaying mortal without weaknesses (you know, a boring person) in a story, this is how I'd build them.

Other than the actual fighting skill, none of that seems impossible for the wizard to also obtain.

JoeJ
2016-05-25, 01:43 PM
Other than the actual fighting skill, none of that seems impossible for the wizard to also obtain.

If they're spending their time advancing politically, training a special animal companion, and inventing all kinds of wonderful gadgets, when are they learning new spells?

Max_Killjoy
2016-05-25, 01:57 PM
If they're spending their time advancing politically, training a special animal companion, and inventing all kinds of wonderful gadgets, when are they learning new spells?

If a fighter is spending all his time doing those things, when is he honing and maintaining his fighting skills and physique?

Flickerdart
2016-05-25, 01:58 PM
Remote or special perception kills mystery plots -- unless you keep throwing special blocks at it and frustrating the players by making their powers pointless.

"Raise dead" kills the drama of death, unless you keep throwing "but you can't raise THIS person because of a reason I just came up with... again".

Sending minions removes the need for the players to go do something themselves, unless you keep killing or thwarting their minions.

Teleportation, unless tightly constrained, is a "got out of trouble" card.

And so on.


There's a reason these are "plot powers" reserved to specific characters in fiction -- usually not the central protagonist.
And those are some great low power level plots. But there's nothing wrong with systems where characters outgrow them or (in games like Exalted) never really cared about them in the first place. If you want a murder mystery, the wizards in your game shouldn't be able to raise the dead, but there's no reason they can't raise the dead in the game next door, where there's no murder mystery and everyone's a dozen levels higher.

FYI, martials have been bringing back the dead for years, usually by walking down to the underworld and punching the God of Death in the face.


The first thing I'd give our martial is political clout.

...

Next thing I'm tacking on is engineering.

...

While we're on the subject of animals.

...

Yeah, this sort of goes back to what I was talking about earlier (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showsinglepost.php?p=20811329&postcount=53). Magic makes what it wants, but the key to mundane power lies in taking what already exists and using it in the right way.

dramatic flare
2016-05-25, 01:59 PM
Remote or special perception kills mystery plots -- unless you keep throwing special blocks at it and frustrating the players by making their powers pointless.

"Raise dead" kills the drama of death, unless you keep throwing "but you can't raise THIS person because of a reason I just came up with... again".

Sending minions removes the need for the players to go do something themselves, unless you keep killing or thwarting their minions.

Teleportation, unless tightly constrained, is a "got out of trouble" card.

And so on.


There's a reason these are "plot powers" reserved to specific characters in fiction -- usually not the central protagonist.

No.
Roger Zelazny's The Great Book of Amber series, Jack Vance's Tales From the Dying Earth series, R. Scott Bakker's The Second Apocalypse series, Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun, and others (I could go on for a while) specifically refute your point that the central protagonist of a story can not have these "plot powers".
You can raise this person from the dead, but do they want to be raised or will they be whole when they come back? You can send minions, but who's to stop the minions from disobeying you or taking the thing you're seeking for themselves? Teleportation can get you out of trouble, unless they manage to grab a piece of your hair, scry you, then teleport right after you, or just simply prevent it with their own magic.
And, in order, those refutations of specific points come from Book of the New Sun, Tales from the Dying Earth, and The Second Apocalypse, meaning that not only have authors thought about giving their protagonists such "plot powers", they have done so and still made the story have conflict.

Because this CAN happen in other mediums, it follows that the possibility of players ending with such world shaking power and the capacity to rival gods is both a possible game and a possible storyline within one. The question now, for games with caster/martial disparity, is how to give it to everyone fairly. And if you don't want to play that game, fine. Just don't tell us its impossible for us to play it ourselves.

Flickerdart
2016-05-25, 02:10 PM
Honestly, the justification that "it ruins this specific plot idea I might want to run someday maybe" is a flimsy one, since we can use it to curtail basically any ability. Should high intelligence be banned in all systems, to save my "Forrest Gump" campaign idea? Should attacking be unavailable to PCs, since I want them to talk to NPCs and keep having to come up with reasons they can't just kill them all like "there are guards" or "it's a crime"?

JoeJ
2016-05-25, 02:35 PM
If a fighter is spending all his time doing those things, when is he honing and maintaining his fighting skills and physique?

The fighter hones their fighting skill and physique at the same time the wizard is studying blasting spells. If the wizard has time to also learn to fly, teleport, divine, or do other cool things, then the fighter can use that same time to do the things listed.

A good wizard learns many spells instead of always raising their skill with just one. Equally, a good fighter doesn't just keep improving their sword skill, they broaden their abilities by learning other skills, developing contacts, training their horse, etc.

Max_Killjoy
2016-05-25, 03:03 PM
No.
Roger Zelazny's The Great Book of Amber series, Jack Vance's Tales From the Dying Earth series, R. Scott Bakker's The Second Apocalypse series, Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun, and others (I could go on for a while) specifically refute your point that the central protagonist of a story can not have these "plot powers".


First find where that was my point.

What I recall saying was this: There's a reason these are "plot powers" reserved to specific characters in fiction -- usually not the central protagonist. I said "usually not", not "cannot".




Honestly, the justification that "it ruins this specific plot idea I might want to run someday maybe" is a flimsy one, since we can use it to curtail basically any ability. Should high intelligence be banned in all systems, to save my "Forrest Gump" campaign idea? Should attacking be unavailable to PCs, since I want them to talk to NPCs and keep having to come up with reasons they can't just kill them all like "there are guards" or "it's a crime"?

Reduction to the absurd is generally considered a fallacy.

Flickerdart
2016-05-25, 03:04 PM
First find where that was my point.

What I recall saying was this: There's a reason these are "plot powers" reserved to specific characters in fiction -- usually not the central protagonist.

I said "usually not", not "cannot".

So why is it so bad that these abilities should be available to PCs in a game?

dramatic flare
2016-05-25, 03:25 PM
First find where that was my point.

What I recall saying was this: There's a reason these are "plot powers" reserved to specific characters in fiction -- usually not the central protagonist. I said "usually not", not "cannot".

You're splitting hairs.

Or that casters shouldn't have in the first place.

And those iconic abilities -- quite often they're the province of someone who would be an NPC, and not a PC, if ported over to a game.
Your argument, in essence, is, "these powers are too powerful and player characters should not have them," because such powers should be reserved to NPC characters much like how they are, as you believe, usually reserved to noncentral characters in books. My counter is provide numerous examples to the contrary, where those powers are used by central characters in books, and thus say we can have games with that too. Just because your specific wording is not the exact wording I used does not mean that the broader point failed to be addressed or that I am somehow reducing your argument.

You're right, i should have ended that paragraph with, "do not have," instead of "can not have," but that in it of itself does not parry the main thrust I am arguing here.

Frozen_Feet
2016-05-25, 03:55 PM
If they're spending their time advancing politically, training a special animal companion, and inventing all kinds of wonderful gadgets, when are they learning new spells?

Let's put this in D&D specific terms:

Starting age for Fighters, Rangers, Barbarians etc. is years lower than starting age for clerics and wizards. In terms of basics needed for the job, casting is harder.

Now add to this the observation that by tackling appropriate challenges, a character can advance to high level dramatically fast. In d20, you can theoretically reach Epic in six months.

So by RAW, by the time a Wizard has learned enough of basic magical theory to cast Magic Missile, a Fighter born at the same time has become able to wrestle giants and shoot down dragons and has had years to devote to ruling his own army or kingdom or whatever the Hell he likes. :smalltongue:

So the conceptual disparity exists because early training is glossed over. This relates to the problem of knowledge I mentioned earlier. For all practical purposes, a 1st level Fighter knows less than a 1st level Wizard. A Fighter who would know as much and had as much training cannot be modeled at effective level 1 in d20.

Max_Killjoy
2016-05-25, 03:58 PM
You're splitting hairs.


Your argument, in essence, is, "these powers are too powerful and player characters should not have them," because such powers should be reserved to NPC characters much like how they are, as you believe, usually reserved to noncentral characters in books. My counter is provide numerous examples to the contrary, where those powers are used by central characters in books, and thus say we can have games with that too. Just because your specific wording is not the exact wording I used does not mean that the broader point failed to be addressed or that I am somehow reducing your argument.

You're right, i should have ended that paragraph with, "do not have," instead of "can not have," but that in it of itself does not parry the main thrust I am arguing here.


There's a reason that they are usually the province of someone other than the central protagonist.

Give Bilbo all the powers and skills of Saruman (while retaining Bilbo's outlook and morals)... that's over in a couple dozen pages.

In the stories where the central characters do possess those sorts of powers, the author has to turn around and constantly come up with roadblocks that keep those powers from immediately, cleanly, and easily solving the challenges at hand -- often to the point where the reader rightly asks if they ever actually work as advertised, and you end up with a contrivance pileup.

Flickerdart
2016-05-25, 04:01 PM
So by RAW, by the time a Wizard has learned enough of basic magical theory to cast Magic Missile, a Fighter born at the same time has become able to wrestle giants and shoot down dragons and has had years to devote to ruling his own army or kingdom or whatever the Hell he likes. :smalltongue:
(Un)fortunately, level and not age is the balance metric for games.



So the conceptual disparity exists because early training is glossed over. This relates to the problem of knowledge I mentioned earlier. For all practical purposes, a 1st level Fighter knows less than a 1st level Wizard. A Fighter who would know as much and had as much training cannot be modeled at effective level 1 in d20.

I've always thought that this was a reasonable way of looking at things: a level 1 fighter is a badass veteran warrior type, with real battlefield experience and heroic manly stubble, and a level 1 wizard is basically a college dropout. This way of framing the relationship between levels and experience neatly sidesteps all the people who argue "well of course magic is better, it's magic." Magic in general is better, but a level 1 wizard's magic is basically on the level of parlor tricks. By the time he gets competent with magic, the fighter has already gone way beyond Rambo.

JoeJ
2016-05-25, 04:12 PM
Let's put this in D&D specific terms:

Starting age for Fighters, Rangers, Barbarians etc. is years lower than starting age for clerics and wizards. In terms of basics needed for the job, casting is harder.

Now add to this the observation that by tackling appropriate challenges, a character can advance to high level dramatically fast. In d20, you can theoretically reach Epic in six months.

So by RAW, by the time a Wizard has learned enough of basic magical theory to cast Magic Missile, a Fighter born at the same time has become able to wrestle giants and shoot down dragons and has had years to devote to ruling his own army or kingdom or whatever the Hell he likes. :smalltongue:

So the conceptual disparity exists because early training is glossed over. This relates to the problem of knowledge I mentioned earlier. For all practical purposes, a 1st level Fighter knows less than a 1st level Wizard. A Fighter who would know as much and had as much training cannot be modeled at effective level 1 in d20.

Right. And that's very easy to model in a point-based system like GURPS, where every point a player spends on a spell is a point they didn't spend on attributes, skills, advantages, contacts, etc. It's harder to manage in a class/level system, although even there, some games do a dramatically better job of it than others.

Frozen_Feet
2016-05-25, 04:13 PM
(Un)fortunately, level and not age is the balance metric for games.

Whatever this "balance" you speak of is, d20 D&D does not have it. Arguably earlier editions had it even less, as the same amount of experience would lead to a different level based on class.


I've always thought that this was a reasonable way of looking at things: a level 1 fighter is a badass veteran warrior type, with real battlefield experience and heroic manly stubble, and a level 1 wizard is basically a college dropout. This way of framing the relationship between levels and experience neatly sidesteps all the people who argue "well of course magic is better, it's magic." Magic in general is better, but a level 1 wizard's magic is basically on the level of parlor tricks. By the time he gets competent with magic, the fighter has already gone way beyond Rambo.

It's not a reasonable way to look at it when the rules don't support it. By the actual rules, a 1st level Caster is equivalent to someone who finished university, 1st level Fighter is fresh out of the bootcamp and 1st level Rogues and Barbarians are teenagers on the run. :smalltongue:

Cosi
2016-05-25, 04:14 PM
Isn't reality-bending the point of epic levels, where PCs and NPCs are more or less (demi)gods going at one another? XD

Yes. If your game is the same at 2nd level and 20th level, there is no reason to have a level system.


And there are lots of games like this, and it's okay to have games like this, and if you like games like this then find games like this and play them.

That's not even really a gaming system. That's just an advancement system. There's a point where 3e does Conan, and if the highest you want to go is Conan you can just stop leveling at that point.


TThe point, which was quite clear, is that what works in a book or a movie, does not always work for a game. A GM is not an author or director, and there's no outline or script that the PCs can be made to follow.

And that makes abilities like teleport or planar binding all the more important. The reason to play D&D instead of Skyrim is that D&D offers you the opportunity to take the plot in new and unexpected directions. If you can't do that, why not go play Assassin's Creed or Mass Effect?


Remote or special perception kills mystery plots -- unless you keep throwing special blocks at it and frustrating the players by making their powers pointless.

scrying requires either knowledge of or connection to the creature you're targeting. If the villain of the mystery simply conceals his identity, he cannot be found out by the most common form of remote perception in D&D. Also, knowing that someone committed a crime and being able to prove it are totally different things.


"Raise dead" kills the drama of death, unless you keep throwing "but you can't raise THIS person because of a reason I just came up with... again".

So? If players want to be able to keep playing the same characters, shouldn't they be able to?


Teleportation, unless tightly constrained, is a "got out of trouble" card.

Yeah, but it's also that for the PC's enemies.


The first thing I'd give our martial is political clout.

I am wary of this solution. Because if the Fighter is supposed to get political power to compensate for the Wizard getting utility magic, the Wizard can't get political power without upsetting the apple cart, and fiction is filled with politically powerful Wizards. Kellhus is an emperor, and also one of the most powerful magic users in the setting. So is Gaius Octavian. Rand al'Thor has political and magical power. The Lord Ruler is a high level caster who rules the world. Even if you're just looking at it from a basic logic perspective, it seems that in a setting where Wizards are more innately powerful than Fighters, they'd be more, rather than less, likely to rule the world.


The problem I have with the question as initially posed is that it's supposed to be system agnostic and the problem of martial/caster disparity doesn't exist in a system agnostic way. Even limiting it to just those games that have something like magic, it's not generally true that magic users are noticeably more powerful than other characters.

The disparity between "realistic swordsman" and "guy who warps reality with his mind" is absurdly obvious. Systems avoid that in various ways (for example, Shadowrun postulates that "machine guns" and "cybernetics" are part of the available mundane technology), but it's actually pretty universal.


What I recall saying was this: There's a reason these are "plot powers" reserved to specific characters in fiction -- usually not the central protagonist. I said "usually not", not "cannot".

Unless you're reading: Lord of Light, The Chronicles of Amber, Creatures of Light and Darkness, The Tide Lords, Malazan: Book of the Fallen, Shadow Ops, The Dresden Files, The Codex Alera, The Second Apocalypse, The Wheel of Time, Mistborn, The Stormlight Archive, many comics, or Harry Potter (seriously, Harry has mind control and teleportation).

Max_Killjoy
2016-05-25, 04:29 PM
Regarding "raise dead", I wasn't talking about the player characters -- but rather anyone around them. Who cares if you save the hostages from being killed, as long as the bodies aren't destroyed, you can always bring them back. Who cares if the only witness to the crime was just shot with an arrow in the heart and died in front of you, you can always bring him back... etc.


Regarding Harry Potter as one example from your list... I read through the series for reasons that go beyond just wanting to read it, but I kept coming across situations where the only reason a problem couldn't be solved by something we plainly saw that magic could do in that setting appeared to be "because the author said so".

PersonMan
2016-05-25, 04:36 PM
The first thing I'd give our martial is political clout.

Next thing I'm tacking on is engineering.

While we're on the subject of animals. What's a knight without a steed?

The issue with this that springs to my mind is that it basically pushes all martial characters into a single subset of concepts.

Wandering swordmaster connected to a fallen dynasty? Warrior-hermit coming out of retirement to atone for past sins by beating the evil guy? Martial prodigy wanderer traveling the world to explore and master every style they come across in days?

All of those run into issues here. If I want to play a feral warrior who fights with teeth and primitive weapons, someone raised outside of society who has learned to interact with it but will never be part of it - how does that fit with the political clout? The engineering? The animals, maybe, but even then it's more akin to a 'druid' type than a feral killer.


The fighter hones their fighting skill and physique at the same time the wizard is studying blasting spells. If the wizard has time to also learn to fly, teleport, divine, or do other cool things, then the fighter can use that same time to do the things listed.

A good wizard learns many spells instead of always raising their skill with just one. Equally, a good fighter doesn't just keep improving their sword skill, they broaden their abilities by learning other skills, developing contacts, training their horse, etc.

The question isn't "when is the fighter learning this", it's "so the fighter spends X time working on fighting/physical training, and wizard spends X time on magic, why does the fighter get all this other stuff without the wizard being able to?", though.

JoeJ
2016-05-25, 04:37 PM
The disparity between "realistic swordsman" and "guy who warps reality with his mind" is absurdly obvious. Systems avoid that in various ways (for example, Shadowrun postulates that "machine guns" and "cybernetics" are part of the available mundane technology), but it's actually pretty universal.

Neither "realistic swordsman" nor "guy who warps reality with his mind" are universal definitions of the kinds of characters available in RPGs.

But even described as you did, the disparity is by no means obvious, since Mushashi was a realistic swordsman, and a psychic with telekinesis that's only strong enough to make a pencil float in mid-air is warping reality with his mind.

Where you get the disparity is where 1. the system makes magic extremely powerful and flexible, and 2. either the system, or often the GM, decides that only magic is that powerful and flexible.


The question isn't "when is the fighter learning this", it's "so the fighter spends X time working on fighting/physical training, and wizard spends X time on magic, why does the fighter get all this other stuff without the wizard being able to?", though.

Who says the wizard can't? They're certainly free to give up some magical flexibility and learn a smaller assortment of spells in order to have more time to spend on other things.

dramatic flare
2016-05-25, 04:39 PM
There's a reason that they are usually the province of someone other than the central protagonist.

Give Bilbo all the powers and skills of Saruman (while retaining Bilbo's outlook and morals)... that's over in a couple dozen pages.

In the stories where the central characters do possess those sorts of powers, the author has to turn around and constantly come up with roadblocks that keep those powers from immediately, cleanly, and easily solving the challenges at hand -- often to the point where the reader rightly asks if they ever actually work as advertised, and you end up with a contrivance pileup.

Sure, that would be over in a couple dozen pages, but that's why the protagonists from LOTR are of a lower power scale, and in DnD 3.x terms probably about level 6. And that's a fine story to play.
On the otherhand, if you put Bilbo given his standard powers and skills and put him in The Second Apocalypse and he'll be dead in a week at best. That story tells of higher level characters, and that is also a fine story to play.

Of course authors have to come up with roadblocks, conflict is what makes a story interesting. There is no reason you can't come up with roadblocks for Bilbo (goblins, Smaug) and roadblocks for The Second Apocalypse's protagonist (flying mages who speak a word and obliterate a city, changlings taking the faces of those around him who are faster, stronger, and possess better senses of smell than any other humanoid). But they can't be the same roadblock, because what level 6 Bilbo finds challenging would be laughable to SA's protagonist, and visa versa would crush Bilbo. That's not a problem with the respective powers involved, that a problem with appropriate challenges for different characters.
That contrivance pileup you discuss is not the fault of the powers, it's the fault of the author. Bad writing causes problems whether you're writing in the LOTR level (see Eragon) or the SA level (see, hmm.. Runelords would be about the level of character power).
You can have both done well. you can have both done terribly. But saying one is invalid because it's significantly more powerful than the other is farcial.

Cosi
2016-05-25, 05:01 PM
Regarding "raise dead", I wasn't talking about the player characters -- but rather anyone around them. Who cares if you save the hostages from being killed, as long as the bodies aren't destroyed, you can always bring them back. Who cares if the only witness to the crime was just shot with an arrow in the heart and died in front of you, you can always bring him back... etc.

Why is it bad that low level challenges don't threaten high level characters? Is it wrong that a guy who can kill Hill Giants isn't threatened by Orcs?


Regarding Harry Potter as one example from your list... I read through the series for reasons that go beyond just wanting to read it, but I kept coming across situations where the only reason a problem couldn't be solved by something we plainly saw that magic could do in that setting appeared to be "because the author said so".

Sure, Harry Potter isn't a great example. But there's still, you know, every other example on that list.


Neither "realistic swordsman" nor "guy who warps reality with his mind" are universal definitions of the kinds of characters available in RPGs.

True. You can avoid any problem that occurs when you have X in your game by not putting X in your game. For example, you do not have to deal with slavery in a way that is reasonably tasteful if your game doesn't include it.


But even described as you did, the disparity is by no means obvious, since Mushashi was a realistic swordsman, and a psychic with telekinesis that's only strong enough to make a pencil float in mid-air is warping reality with his mind.

Yes, the disparity isn't between any two characters like that. It's that there's a ceiling on "mundane swordsman", but not "reality warper".

Frozen_Feet
2016-05-25, 05:22 PM
The issue with this that springs to my mind is that it basically pushes all martial characters into a single subset of concepts.

The reason why d20 Wizards and Clerics are so powerful because they're meant to cover ALL wizarding archetypes and ALL priestly archetypes and with some twinking can have ALL the powers of ALL the archetypes AT ONCE.

It follows that to compete, a true God-Martial would have to be able to become any martial archetype, and eventually be able to use all their powers at once.


The question isn't "when is the fighter learning this", it's "so the fighter spends X time working on fighting/physical training, and wizard spends X time on magic, why does the fighter get all this other stuff without the wizard being able to?", though.

As noted, this is built on the faulty premise that X time of training has equivalent effects on both.

It doesn't.

To use d20 as an example, the minimum starting age for a human Fighter is 16. One out of six Fighters manage this. The minimum starting age for a human Wizard is 17. Only one out of 36 Wizards manage this.

The average starting age for a Fighter is 18.5. Half of them manage this. Only one in six Wizards manage this.

The maximum starting age for a fighter is 21. Only ~42% of Wizards manage this.

The average starting age for Wizards is 22. 58% of them take at least this long. By this point, even the slowest-learning Fighter has 1 year of adventuring experience on top of their level 1 training.

Now, Bard training is as fast as Fighter training, but it doesn't make you as magically powerful. Sorcerers gain power faster, but in d20 their power is explicitly inborn, not trained.

Max_Killjoy
2016-05-25, 05:37 PM
Why is it bad that low level challenges don't threaten high level characters?

The very notion of "levels" to start with...

It's that notion combined with the notion of discrete character classes that gives us linear fighters vs quadratic mages.

Jormengand
2016-05-25, 05:39 PM
The very notion of "levels" to start with...

It's that notion combined with the notion of discrete character classes that gives us linear fighters vs quadratic mages.

But it doesn't have to.

Darth Ultron
2016-05-25, 05:51 PM
Whatever this "balance" you speak of is, d20 D&D does not have it. Arguably earlier editions had it even less, as the same amount of experience would lead to a different level based on class.


D20 went way to far to one side of the ''safe'' type of game and made everything all good in the worst rated G/Disney/E for Everyone way possible.

Older versions of D&D had things like harmful effects of magic that really did balance them out nicely. And older D&D before 3E did not have all the crazy builds. And older D&D lacked all the crazy 3E spells too.

Frozen_Feet
2016-05-25, 06:01 PM
That's besides the point. My comment was not about whether Wizards and Fighters are balanced in the abstract. It was to point out that levels are not and have not been working metric of balance.

JoeJ
2016-05-25, 06:06 PM
Yes, the disparity isn't between any two characters like that. It's that there's a ceiling on "mundane swordsman", but not "reality warper".

Maybe, but there's no requirement that a non-magical fighter be "mundane" in that sense. Leaving aside anime, because I'm not that familiar with it, Captain America, Spiderman, and Wonder Woman are all examples of martial characters who are anything but mundane.

Cosi
2016-05-25, 06:25 PM
The very notion of "levels" to start with...

Uh, what? You're going to need to put some effort into explaining how "levels" are supposed to be notionally in conflict with surpassing challenges.


It's that notion combined with the notion of discrete character classes that gives us linear fighters vs quadratic mages.

As Jormengand points out, this is not fundamental. Imagine you took 3e, removed every class except Cleric and Wizard, and changed the name of the Cleric to Fighter. Now you have two classes that are (roughly) balanced, play differently, and are reasonably functional from 1 to 20. That's pretty scalable, particularly if you add class features or restrict class lists somewhat.


And older D&D before 3E did not have all the crazy builds.

Correction: you didn't find crazy builds in older versions of D&D. And you know what? You didn't find crazy builds in 3e either. There was a guy who figured out Chain Binding. That guy was not you. There was a guy who figured out The Wish. That guy was not you. There was a guy who invented the Tippyverse. That guy was not you. And so on for every exploit in 3e. The vast majority of people didn't break 3e, which makes me suspect that people's claims that older versions of D&D were more balanced are basically stupid.


And older D&D lacked all the crazy 3E spells too.

As I understand it, many of the craziest spells in 3e are holdovers from older editions.


Maybe, but there's no requirement that a non-magical fighter be "mundane" in that sense. Leaving aside anime, because I'm not that familiar with it, Captain America, Spiderman, and Wonder Woman are all examples of martial characters who are anything but mundane.

Yes, that is a solution to the problem. It doesn't make the problem not exist.

Max_Killjoy
2016-05-25, 06:40 PM
Maybe, but there's no requirement that a non-magical fighter be "mundane" in that sense. Leaving aside anime, because I'm not that familiar with it, Captain America, Spiderman, and Wonder Woman are all examples of martial characters who are anything but mundane.

Those characters are either clearly, or sometimes depending on who's writing, also superhuman. They just have magic of a defined nature under a specific SFX.




Uh, what? You're going to need to put some effort into explaining how "levels" are supposed to be notionally in conflict with surpassing challenges.


The very notion of judging challenge and character strength by "levels", and arranging everything into discrete little tiers / pigeon-holes that neatly line up the difficulty, coupled with massive sudden jumps in character growth at points designed to line up with those supposed tiers of power.

Cluedrew
2016-05-25, 07:22 PM
Well, I'm glad to see that the thread is going strong. Unfortunately it also means I don't have time to reply to everything I would like to, but I have a few things to say.


The problem I have with the question as initially posed is that it's supposed to be system agnostic and the problem of martial/caster disparity doesn't exist in a system agnostic way. Even limiting it to just those games that have something like magic, it's not generally true that magic users are noticeably more powerful than other characters.Well I suppose you could say it is system agnostic across systems with martial/caster disparity. But to me it is because the design decisions that effect this issue are deep enough they will appear in all systems. If the problem does not show up in the system, than they got it right (given the other parameters of that system, but there are often still general things to be learned).

Take for instance HP, in D&D the fact that all damage goes through HP weakens martials who rely on straight damage because there is so much of it. That is a choice deep in the system that ends up effecting balance in a lot because casters have so many more ways to go around HP than martials. Of course one could argue that it is the casters set of abilities that go around it that cause the imbalance and you wouldn't be wrong, not completely at least. You need both, no all three (HP, casters who go around HP, martials that go through HP) to create an imbalance, or to contribute to it.


Yes, the disparity isn't between any two characters like that. It's that there's a ceiling on "mundane swordsman", but not "reality warper".Stop sticking the swordsman with the mundane tag... well I suppose that depends on what you mean by mundane (tell me if you think I have it wrong) but it carries so many restricting connotations around it. We might as well try to balance a swordsman (the most over the top one you can think of) against a "mundane reality warper" (that is someone who's reality wrap is limited to the gravitational field their body mass gives off). I think the real life swordsman could beat the latter.


Those characters are either clearly, or sometimes depending on who's writing, also superhuman. They just have magic of a defined nature under a specific SFX.Yes, but superhuman is not supernatural and so that SFX works. In my view magic itself is just a SFX, just one with different feel.

Arbane
2016-05-25, 07:24 PM
Whatever this "balance" you speak of is, d20 D&D does not have it. Arguably earlier editions had it even less, as the same amount of experience would lead to a different level based on class.

I'd actually argue AD&D, at least, was significantly better balanced - most wizards didn't have enough hitpoints to survive their own fireballs, getting hit in mid-spell made it autofail, at high level it could take multiple DAYS to refill all your spells, some spells were inherently dangerous to use (teleport, polymorph spells, haste), and wands and scrolls were rare, valuable random loot and making them yourself was a massive undertaking to the point where scrounging around in monster-infested ruins hoping to find one started looking like a good idea.

3rd edition actually took away a LOT of limitations wizards had previously.



it from a basic logic perspective, it seems that in a setting where Wizards are more innately powerful than Fighters, they'd be more, rather than less, likely to rule the world.

[ars magica]But that would take time away from their research![/ars magica]

Consider also Unknown Armies. There's two reasons magicians don't rule the world in that setting - one is a NPC conspiracy to keep magic hidden, but the more important one is that to BE a magician in that setting, you have to be a dangerously obsessed nutcase.



The disparity between "realistic swordsman" and "guy who warps reality with his mind" is absurdly obvious.


You know, absolutely nothing about the basic idea of 'wizard' says 'warps reality with his mind'. Who's to say they have any idea what they're DOING when they cast spells? (Aside from the fact that if they do it right, it works.)

How many horror movies have some idiot teenager reciting bad Latin from some old book - and having it WORK? Obviously, that sort of magic's in the words, not in the caster.



Unless you're reading: Lord of Light, The Chronicles of Amber, Creatures of Light and Darkness, The Tide Lords, Malazan: Book of the Fallen, Shadow Ops, The Dresden Files, The Codex Alera, The Second Apocalypse, The Wheel of Time, Mistborn, The Stormlight Archive, many comics, or Harry Potter (seriously, Harry has mind control and teleportation).

Seems like aside from Elric of Melnibone, the idea of spellcasters as main characters instead of advisors or villains is fairly recent, culturally. Since the... 1970s, maybe?


Why is it bad that low level challenges don't threaten high level characters? Is it wrong that a guy who can kill Hill Giants isn't threatened by Orcs?

Eh, I think part of the problem is that D&D magic (at least) starts getting their Win Buttons early with spells like Sleep and Knock, and never really lets up. Consider older modules, which often had a text-block explaining why a list of high-level spells wouldn't work in this module because (bogus reason).


Yes, the disparity isn't between any two characters like that. It's that there's a ceiling on "mundane swordsman", but not "reality warper".

Obviously, the mundane swordsman needs to get boosted to Saber* level, while the reality warper needs to be busted back down to 'wise man who knows some useful tricks'.

*(Not that the Nasuverse doesn't have its own problems with Mage Supremacy...)


The reason why d20 Wizards and Clerics are so powerful because they're meant to cover ALL wizarding archetypes and ALL priestly archetypes and with some twinking can have ALL the powers of ALL the archetypes AT ONCE.

It follows that to compete, a true God-Martial would have to be able to become any martial archetype, and eventually be able to use all their powers at once.

Exactly! Most fictional wizards can reanimate the dead OR summon demons OR turn people to stone... not all at once plus more tricks.

dramatic flare
2016-05-25, 08:20 PM
Seems like aside from Elric of Melnibone, the idea of spellcasters as main characters instead of advisors or villains is fairly recent, culturally. Since the... 1970s, maybe?

Shakespeare's Tempest? Geoffrey of Monmounth's Merlin? Gwydion?
I think most works of fiction are more recent less due to the story idea (unless it involves more modern inventions) but due to the fact we are publishing more of everything now than we were fifty or more years ago. Go back even 100 years and most of the "books" we know were actually written in newspapers over time and then collected later, after they were famous. I would agree with you though that fantasy in general is more common after the 1940's because LOTR was published, and most of what we would consider fantasy-like before that timeframe we call myth instead.

JoeJ
2016-05-25, 08:58 PM
Those characters are either clearly, or sometimes depending on who's writing, also superhuman. They just have magic of a defined nature under a specific SFX.

Of course they are, that's my point. Those are all examples of god-martial characters that are sufficiently superhuman to hold their own in a club with god-wizards.

Martial =/= mundane. The level of "realism" should be a factor of the game universe, not the character type. If a game system makes wizards as powerful as Dr. Strange or Green Lantern but fighters are more like Jaime Lannister, you're going to have a problem, because the characters aren't even in the same genre.

Cosi
2016-05-25, 09:38 PM
The very notion of judging challenge and character strength by "levels", and arranging everything into discrete little tiers / pigeon-holes that neatly line up the difficulty, coupled with massive sudden jumps in character growth at points designed to line up with those supposed tiers of power.

Maybe I'm missing something, but isn't this describing the exact system I'm advocating for? As you go up in level, you pass through different tiers where different things are appropriate. At first, you are basically a guy who is pretty well trained, but you eventually become stronger to the point that you can fight demon lords or change the face of the world.


Stop sticking the swordsman with the mundane tag... well I suppose that depends on what you mean by mundane (tell me if you think I have it wrong) but it carries so many restricting connotations around it.

I think you're kind of missing the point of my argument. I agree in general that having Fighters be "mundane" is basically stupid. My point is that if you make that decision, if you have casters that are not limited in that way, eventually martials will be worse than casters. It's a response to Max rejecting any good abilities people think martials should have (i.e. Dunyain training, being Captain America) as "just refluffed magic".


Seems like aside from Elric of Melnibone, the idea of spellcasters as main characters instead of advisors or villains is fairly recent, culturally. Since the... 1970s, maybe?

Various myths have gods with magical abilities, and they predate Elric by thousands of years. It's not fantasy, but superhero comics have had superpowered protagonists for long enough that there are comics where Superman or Captain America fight Hitler. Dune is from the 60s, but it has a protagonist with some magical abilities. Outside the veracity of the claim, I also think that there just isn't that much pre-1970 fiction period.


Eh, I think part of the problem is that D&D magic (at least) starts getting their Win Buttons early with spells like Sleep and Knock, and never really lets up.

It's not a problem that magic users get "I Win" buttons. It's a problem that casters get awesome abilities, and other people don't. It's a problem that the Wizard gets fabricate, lesser planar binding, and teleport at 9th level, while the Figher gets +1 to hit. But it's not a problem that the Wizard gets those spells and the Cleric gets raise dead and plane shift. On the opposite end, it's not really a problem that the Fighter gets +1 to hit if it's being compared to the Ranger's +1 to hit and minor class features.


Consider older modules, which often had a text-block explaining why a list of high-level spells wouldn't work in this module because (bogus reason).

That's just bad design. If you've written an adventure that can't stand up to teleport/scrying/plane shift/reincarnate, set it at a level where people don't have those abilities.


Exactly! Most fictional wizards can reanimate the dead OR summon demons OR turn people to stone... not all at once plus more tricks.

But most fictional wizards show up for one story, and are not necessarily in every scene of that story. Conversely, D&D characters show up in every story the group tells (unless they die) and are in most scenes in those stories. That demands a wider variety of things to do. Not necessarily as wide as "the entire 3e Wizard list", but wider than the one or two tricks of a lot of fantasy casters.

Efrate
2016-05-25, 10:22 PM
Even systems where you have more limitation on magic vs. martial magic almost always invariably comes out ahead. Because magic does something once and problem is solves. It doesn't matter what, but they need one shot, if they get it right, no more problem. When or where do martials at any place get that?

In the example of the war leader prince with pets, and army, etc., all that caster needs is one spell to solve all of those problems. Mages are killed by and being out of resources, whereas the martials aren't but its much harder when each encounter has a one spell solution. A good spread of utility spells solve every problem outside of fiat, and if fiat is your answer you are doing it wrong.

Magic at its core breaks how things are supposed to work. It enables the impossible. Even if only once, even if only with a cost, the entire basis is what you say goes, what you do works, despite all evidence that it shouldn't or couldn't. If there are some things it cannot do, fine, but there needs to be a reasonable selection of things it can just say nope THIS is happening now. If it cannot do that, then it isn't magic. It is fundamentally unbound by its nature. Martials are bound by thiers. That cannot change, else you don't have magic. If martials get that, then the martial is just a reskinned magic user with unique SFX, at which point they are just another caster.

A quick and dirty balance? Wizard/sorcerer spells: ONLY direct damage/AoE. Nothing else. You do magic damage. That is it. No charms, illusions, what have you. No magic items, except maybe wands which do exactly what you do, and only you can use them. No one else. For clerics? You get heals. The cure line, maybe restoration and cure disease/poison. That is it. There are not other spells. Same magic item limitations, or again nothing else. Druids? You get no spells. You got critters and some survival. Beastmaster is your role but you cannot ever increase or buff or stat up your pets. You get a wolf, you keep a wolf. No wildshape either, or limited to mundane animals only under the animal entry in MM1, still with hit die restrictions, but you keep your own stats. You want to charm someone or something? A bard uses diplomancy and bluff, with no way to ever increase his bonus other than hard skill points. That is it. He alone gets that. Do something similar. Make everyone totally one dimensional. It sucks, and I would not to want to play it, but it kind of works.

The other option, everyone does everything and has all the same options but they do it in different ways. Everyone can teleport. Fighter cuts a whole in reality and goes from point A to point B. Monk runs super fast. Druid travels through the grass/stone. Rogue steps into one shadow and out of another one elsewhere. And so on and so forth. Everyone is no a wizard. Reskin it all you like, you are all casters.

At that point though, why are you playing Dnd? Options give it replayability. Different builds, seeing what you can do, that is what makes the cooperative storytelling great. If everyone does exactly the same thing, or only every one thing, I wouldn't want to play.

My 2 copper.

Max_Killjoy
2016-05-25, 10:28 PM
Maybe I'm missing something, but isn't this describing the exact system I'm advocating for? As you go up in level, you pass through different tiers where different things are appropriate. At first, you are basically a guy who is pretty well trained, but you eventually become stronger to the point that you can fight demon lords or change the face of the world.

And that's exactly the sort of level-based system -- system of character progression, and system of sorting the things -- that I am rejecting.



I think you're kind of missing the point of my argument. I agree in general that having Fighters be "mundane" is basically stupid. My point is that if you make that decision, if you have casters that are not limited in that way, eventually martials will be worse than casters. It's a response to Max rejecting any good abilities people think martials should have (i.e. Dunyain training, being Captain America) as "just refluffed magic".

Whereas I don't think the solution to the problem with the D&D-style power-curve for casters is to duplicate it with "martials".

Arbane
2016-05-25, 10:58 PM
Of course they are, that's my point. Those are all examples of god-martial characters that are sufficiently superhuman to hold their own in a club with god-wizards.

Martial =/= mundane. The level of "realism" should be a factor of the game universe, not the character type. If a game system makes wizards as powerful as Dr. Strange or Green Lantern but fighters are more like Jaime Lannister, you're going to have a problem, because the characters aren't even in the same genre.

EXACTLY. As someone on the Paizo boards put it, it's like the fighters are being forced to play E6 while the wizards get to 20th level.

If the spellcasters get to be superhuman, the martials need to be superhuman, one way or another, just to keep up. In D&D, right now, that mostly consists of being able to laugh off enough damage to wreck a Sherman tank (which is a good start, but kind of boring).


Even systems where you have more limitation on magic vs. martial magic almost always invariably comes out ahead. Because magic does something once and problem is solves. It doesn't matter what, but they need one shot, if they get it right, no more problem. When or where do martials at any place get that?

You've never played any game with spell failure tables, I take it. (Or Call of Cthulhu, where having a spell go RIGHT might be even more disastrous...)
There are PLENTY of ways to make magic more trouble to use than it's worth in a LOT of situations while still being insanely useful when it IS the best solution to a problem. (D&D utilizes none of them.)

JoeJ
2016-05-25, 11:52 PM
Even systems where you have more limitation on magic vs. martial magic almost always invariably comes out ahead. Because magic does something once and problem is solves. It doesn't matter what, but they need one shot, if they get it right, no more problem. When or where do martials at any place get that?

In the example of the war leader prince with pets, and army, etc., all that caster needs is one spell to solve all of those problems. Mages are killed by and being out of resources, whereas the martials aren't but its much harder when each encounter has a one spell solution. A good spread of utility spells solve every problem outside of fiat, and if fiat is your answer you are doing it wrong.

There may not be a spell that solves those problems, and if there is, the wizard might not know it. Or it might require a great deal time, uninterrupted concentration, and/or hard to acquire components to cast. And magic can be fatiguing, or have a significant risk to the caster, as is the case in GURPS.

Alternatively, magic can work like a comic book superpower, with the wizard having a few well defined spells and the ability to improvise almost anything else as a power stunt (that is, a spell that they've never used before and probably won't ever use again). But if that's the case, then martial characters should be able to do power stunts too.

For example, Willie Wizard and Amy Archer are at the top of a high cliff and need to get down. Willie makes a few mystic gestures, steps off the cliff, and floats safely to the bottom. Amy gets a running start and leaps off, then spins around in mid air and shoots an arrow with a rope attached at the cliff face. The arrow lodges in a crack and Amy uses the rope to rappel to the bottom.

Efrate
2016-05-26, 12:15 AM
Played ctech and call, and found magic more or less useless. Thats not balanced, thats nerfed to ground. An hour to cast a spell alone invalidates most magic. You can get some nice intel, except versus the things you want to get it about, which will be protected always. Or drive you insane.

From what I remember, and it has been a while, magic could do a bit of scrying or protect against such. Generally get better results with less hurdles just asking around town. Get a familiar that made using magic slightly easier, mostly useless. Heal generally less effective than a decent doctor, and not a whole lot faster. And I think there was one more I forget. It was all out of combat use that you could just use a skill easier and with no risk, generally with better results. Also using an ability and getting progressively worse at everything doesn't work well. Same with only war and playing a psycher. If using an ability, especially in cases where most anything else is better, punishes you for using it that is just bad design. That just flipping the martial problem onto caster, doesn't really fix anything.

In more freeform systems magic is another power, like telekinesis, super strength or whatever (thinking mutants and masterminds), that is merely a tool to get the job done. It fixes the disparity a bit in that its just a descriptor, bludgeoning vs. piercing, but that just falls flat. Fluffily its neat, but doesn't provide anything really different from a crunch perspective. I also forget if summon minion was magic only, my old mage had a legion of heroic and fanatically loyal demons each that was essentially another PC specialized in something, and I had a ton of them, but after seeing that I retired the character because playing 50 characters versus the rest of the teams 1 was pretty BS.

Mayhaps I should rephrase: in any system where magic breaks the rules and does things better/faster/stronger/with more versatility than any other way, it outshines the martials because they can never get to that. Its the same issue of having an unbound cap vs. a bound. If you uncap martials they are just a refluffed caster with different SFX. If you cap casters to the point where they can only do the exact same things in a slightly different way, you just made a martial with slightly different fluff and SFX, similar to 4e IIRC, I read through the books once and myself nor any of my group never wish to play that.

You need to be distinct, and you need to break the rules. That is the point. Otherwise why would you ever be anything different? Are you any different otherwise?

JoeJ
2016-05-26, 12:33 AM
If the spellcasters get to be superhuman, the martials need to be superhuman, one way or another, just to keep up. In D&D, right now, that mostly consists of being able to laugh off enough damage to wreck a Sherman tank (which is a good start, but kind of boring).

That and being able to fire a crossbow up to 9 times in 6 seconds while moving, and ignore the fact that the target is at long range and 3/4 covered. Or using a shield to block fireballs. Or raging so hard you can fly short distances. Or disarming, distracting, frightening, provoking, or pushing an enemy off a cliff with a weapon attack, even if the weapon is a thrown dart. Or climbing a wall as fast as you can run. Or picking an enemy's pocket in combat.

Also, most martial characters in D&D now have at least some spell casting ability, since it's so easy to get. To a great extent, however, being able to do cool things still depends on whether the DM thinks that improvised actions should usually fail or usually succeed.

JoeJ
2016-05-26, 12:43 AM
Mayhaps I should rephrase: in any system where magic breaks the rules and does things better/faster/stronger/with more versatility than any other way, it outshines the martials because they can never get to that.

So what you're saying is that if significant martial/caster disparity is an assumption of the game, then you'll end up with a game in which there is significant disparity between martials and casters?

Arbane
2016-05-26, 12:52 AM
Played ctech and call, and found magic more or less useless. Thats not balanced, thats nerfed to ground. An hour to cast a spell alone invalidates most magic. You can get some nice intel, except versus the things you want to get it about, which will be protected always. Or drive you insane.


I'd say an hour per spell is fine, if the spell does something worth spending an hour on. (Fireball-flinging is obviously not a good choice in this system - better ones would be things like longterm blessings or curses, summonings, scrying...)

IIRC, magic can do some impressive stuff in Call of Cthulhu. It's just that one of those impressive things is 'reduce the user to gibbering insanity'. That's what a semievolved monkey gets for messing with alien hypermathematics.

And being the wiseguy that I am, I'll point out that magic that verifiably does ANYTHING is still a massive boost in power over the 'real world'.

PersonMan
2016-05-26, 01:56 AM
The reason why d20 Wizards and Clerics are so powerful because they're meant to cover ALL wizarding archetypes and ALL priestly archetypes and with some twinking can have ALL the powers of ALL the archetypes AT ONCE.

It follows that to compete, a true God-Martial would have to be able to become any martial archetype, and eventually be able to use all their powers at once.

Hmmm. I see what you mean but think that, for me, a God-Martial wouldn't be bound to using outside resources (army, engineering, etc.) to do things - I'd prefer something more like what's been discussed as the 'incredibly supernatural things with a martial label on them making it not magic'.

For me, a character with an army, the capacity to build medieval superweapons and a bunch of loyal animals they can call to their side isn't one I imagine when I think 'God-Martial', so I think that sort of solution is just...not my thing.



As noted, this is built on the faulty premise that X time of training has equivalent effects on both.

It doesn't.

Makes sense.

Frozen_Feet
2016-05-26, 02:34 AM
As I noted on page 1, a resourceful non-magician who is allowed to know and exploit the non-magical world to the same extent as a mage is allowed to know and exploit the magical world, doesn't top out at medieval superweapons and tactics.

People keep bringing up the MCU, stating Captain America as an example of a god-martial. They're wrong. Cap is a name level Fighter with a magic shield. What he does in the movies is already within scope of D&D.

The actual non-magical god-martials in MCU are Iron Man, the Hulk and arguably Black Panther. The magical god-martial is, obviously, Thor, who is basically a really buff dude with a magic hammer and Epic Leadership.

As noted, Thor is already someone a Fighter is meant to emulate at high levels. Since 1st Ed AD&D, the game's magic item system has specifically included magic items targeted at Fighters, allowing duplication of Thor's iconic abilities. The only thing you need to get from D&D fighter to MCU Thor are the much-lampooned bigger numbers and maybe a cohort who can cast Plane Shift.

The other reason, besides more advanced technology, why the above mentioned martials can compete with "casters" of their setting is that said casters are much more limited in their scope than those of D&D. Scarlet Witch has flight, telekinesis, fireball, shield, maybe force cage, and some form of fear or charm person. Vision has flight, etherealness, some energy attack... come to think of it, Vision could as well be modeled as a really high level Monk.

Only Dr. Strange really comes close toa D&D Wizard in the MCU, and we have not seen him yet.

Florian
2016-05-26, 03:36 AM
How can we make martial characters stronger without making them not martial?

By considering what we want the actual laws of nature to be and how we handle interacting with them in a game.

For example, if we consider it a law of nature that a skilled martial artist will always win against any number of enemies that are Level-2, than that simply is so. We don´t have to look at what damage each and every single hit with a longsword would case, we know the martial artist beats the opposition and that´s it.

Lvl 2 Expert
2016-05-26, 05:15 AM
The issue with this that springs to my mind is that it basically pushes all martial characters into a single subset of concepts.

Wandering swordmaster connected to a fallen dynasty? Warrior-hermit coming out of retirement to atone for past sins by beating the evil guy? Martial prodigy wanderer traveling the world to explore and master every style they come across in days?

All of those run into issues here. If I want to play a feral warrior who fights with teeth and primitive weapons, someone raised outside of society who has learned to interact with it but will never be part of it - how does that fit with the political clout? The engineering? The animals, maybe, but even then it's more akin to a 'druid' type than a feral killer.

Expanding on the reply of Frozen_Feet: Trying to beat a D20 wizard as a wandering feral killer is like trying to take on an army leading engineering mastermind mega martial artist as a wizard who's spells are all based on freezing water and moving and manipulating ice. Sure, at level 20 you might be able to level the kingdom with a glacier (which the entire population can still outrun), but even then there are plenty of things they can't handle, like being locked up in a desert, or getting frozen solid themselves. Versatility is a power in itself, especially as the power level rises to "can do pretty much anything as long as it is connected to their specialty".

If you want a good opponent for a guy who's awesome with a sword, Mr Freeze might be a better choice than a miracle man.

Florian
2016-05-26, 05:44 AM
Expanding on the reply of Frozen_Feet: Trying to beat a D20 wizard as a wandering feral killer is like trying to take on an army leading engineering mastermind mega martial artist as a wizard who's spells are all based on freezing water and moving and manipulating ice. Sure, at level 20 you might be able to level the kingdom with a glacier (which the entire population can still outrun), but even then there are plenty of things they can't handle, like being locked up in a desert, or getting frozen solid themselves. Versatility is a power in itself, especially as the power level rises to "can do pretty much anything as long as it is connected to their specialty".

If you want a good opponent for a guy who's awesome with a sword, Mr Freeze might be a better choice than a miracle man.

Nope. D20 has the problem that is wants to do things by comparing an action-by-action basis.
It´s pretty bad at handling the "higher zoom levels" where you take certain outcomes for granted and just look at how successful they were,

It´s like we try to play Rock-Paper-Scissors on one side and look at the actual molecular reaction involved in the final result for the other side.

If Barbarian always beats Wizard, Wizard always beats Rogue and Rogue always outwits Barbarian is true, then the moment we go into the action-by-action level and look at arguments like "I cast that spell and it should do XY..." simply are wrongly placed.

Lvl 2 Expert
2016-05-26, 06:47 AM
Could you expand on that a bit? I'm afraid I'm not following. The standard D20 wizard can't be a tougher opponent than a more specialized wizard because neither of them would with 100% certainty always beat a fire elemental?

But one of those does have much better tools for beating most problems imaginable than the other right? And the same thing for different martials.

Cluedrew
2016-05-26, 07:17 AM
I think you're kind of missing the point of my argument. I agree in general that having Fighters be "mundane" is basically stupid.I guess I was; in which case I think we were making the same point.


Hmmm. I see what you mean but think that, for me, a God-Martial wouldn't be bound to using outside resources (army, engineering, etc.) to do things - I'd prefer something more like what's been discussed as the 'incredibly supernatural things with a martial label on them making it not magic'.

For me, a character with an army, the capacity to build medieval superweapons and a bunch of loyal animals they can call to their side isn't one I imagine when I think 'God-Martial', so I think that sort of solution is just...not my thing.I think both ideas work, but they are defiantly different archetypes.

I do think we have to go a little bit deeper than the label though to give martials abilities that feel like martial abilities. For instance punching the air so hard that a ball of flame comes out that explodes when it hits something... I'm not sure I buy that. But punching the air so hard a shockwave that smashes everything in an ark in front of you, that makes sense.

And I think we can apply that too non-combat abilities. For instance: "After years of trying to predict their opponents next move, this character has developed an sense of what is a genuine action and when someone is trying to mislead them. [Some passive bonus to detecting lies.]" I mean reading your opponent is a pretty identifiable part of a warrior's skill set, just let it apply out of combat and you have a martial detect lies. Probably a bit weaker, but always on.

goto124
2016-05-26, 08:51 AM
For instance punching the air so hard that a ball of flame comes out that explodes when it hits something... I'm not sure I buy that. But punching the air so hard a shockwave that smashes everything in an ark in front of you, that makes sense.

If you punch air at 90% the speed of light, you can create a nuclear explosion (http://what-if.xkcd.com/1/) :smallbiggrin:

Max_Killjoy
2016-05-26, 09:16 AM
If you punch air at 90% the speed of light, you can create a nuclear explosion (http://what-if.xkcd.com/1/) :smallbiggrin:

I knew what you were linking to even before I moused over the link.

Awesome.

(I have both of Randall's books, too.)

Red Fel
2016-05-26, 09:58 AM
I do think we have to go a little bit deeper than the label though to give martials abilities that feel like martial abilities. For instance punching the air so hard that a ball of flame comes out that explodes when it hits something... I'm not sure I buy that. But punching the air so hard a shockwave that smashes everything in an ark in front of you, that makes sense.


If you punch air at 90% the speed of light, you can create a nuclear explosion (http://what-if.xkcd.com/1/) :smallbiggrin:

This. And let's not forget the Mantis Shrimp, a creature that actually exists that can punch underwater so hard that it creates an undersea shockwave that "produces temperatures in the range of several thousand kelvins and emits tiny bursts of light." (http://theoatmeal.com/comics/mantis_shrimp)

So, yeah. Creating a collapsing vacuum that results in burning and light isn't incomprehensible.

goto124
2016-05-26, 09:27 PM
In these cases, the shockwave created causes the air (or water) to ignite. Which I find quite funny :smallbiggrin:

PersonMan
2016-05-27, 04:59 AM
For instance: "After years of trying to predict their opponents next move, this character has developed an sense of what is a genuine action and when someone is trying to mislead them. [Some passive bonus to detecting lies.]" I mean reading your opponent is a pretty identifiable part of a warrior's skill set, just let it apply out of combat and you have a martial detect lies. Probably a bit weaker, but always on.

Certainly. I think that inhuman toughness, super accurate perception, amazing intuition, etc. are all the kinds of things an incredible warrior should have, either by virtue of their Training From Hell or sheer talent.

Florian
2016-05-27, 05:14 AM
Certainly. I think that inhuman toughness, super accurate perception, amazing intuition, etc. are all the kinds of things an incredible warrior should have, either by virtue of their Training From Hell or sheer talent.

Rather look at why you make a roll in the first place. You should never force a roll or check when the action involved reflects something that we expect a character to be able to pull of.
Instead, simply reserve the roll for actions where the outcome is dubios, else we end up with a situation that ether all characters are highly incompetent or act like in a The Gamers movie.

Darth Ultron
2016-05-27, 08:43 AM
Correction: you didn't find crazy builds in older versions of D&D. And you know what? You didn't find crazy builds in 3e either. There was a guy who figured out Chain Binding. That guy was not you. There was a guy who figured out The Wish. That guy was not you. There was a guy who invented the Tippyverse. That guy was not you. And so on for every exploit in 3e. The vast majority of people didn't break 3e, which makes me suspect that people's claims that older versions of D&D were more balanced are basically stupid.

As I understand it, many of the craziest spells in 3e are holdovers from older editions.


Well...this could be a whole tread, but basically, you could not ''build'' a character in most older D&D games. There was no foundation and there was nothing to add.

Older D&D was not based on d20, so that really effected stacking. Plus older D&D lacked the detail of ''what'' everything ''was''. In newer D&D it will be listed as a [Fire] effect, in older D&D it would say something ''the lava man can breathe and do 1d6 damage to a foe within 10 feet''.

Though the biggest thing about older D&D is: there were few rules for any one thing, and even fewer details. And older D&D did not have the insane rules worship found in more modern D&D, where some uppity jerk of a player can stand on a table and say ''my character does X and Y and Z, and it absolutely happens because the rules say so..all hail the rules and the DM just nods yes and says ''all hail the rules''.

Red Fel
2016-05-27, 08:55 AM
In these cases, the shockwave created causes the air (or water) to ignite. Which I find quite funny :smallbiggrin:


Certainly. I think that inhuman toughness, super accurate perception, amazing intuition, etc. are all the kinds of things an incredible warrior should have, either by virtue of their Training From Hell or sheer talent.

But the point is, these all relate to things that a normal human could do, taken to an NI degree. Take punching to an NI degree and now you create combustible vacuums. Take cold reading to an NI degree and it borders on mind-reading. Take toughness training to an NI degree and it borders on invulnerability. Take jumping to an NI degree and it borders on flight.

Borders being the operative word. There are bounds. This NI martial can never truly fly. He's not truly invulnerable. He may have NI speed, but he can't truly teleport, nor travel to distant planets or other dimensions. He may have NI intuition about people, but he can't truly read minds. He may have NI vision, but he can't see through solid matter. He may be able to create shockwaves with his fists, but he can't actually conjure the elements, nor summon creatures to do his bidding.

As long as a caster can do these things and a martial cannot, the difference between martials and casters remains the difference between near-infinite and actually infinite.

GrayDeath
2016-05-27, 10:27 AM
Which, for me at least, is totally fine.

I dont WANT a Martial to be able to do all the nifty Stuff a Magic User can ... just a lot of awesome stuff by himself, instead of being just at most 100% better at hitting things and twice as tough.

I for one am totally fine with "Limited but almost always at will Martial Awesomesauce" vs "Effectively limitless but sharply numbererd Spells".
The Balance would be good enough.

it is not however, maybe I`ll go and collect my Pure martial Houserules and post them, together with the Wizard and other T1 Limits.
They are far from perfect, but DO help to minimize the bridge quite well without completely rewriting D&D.

Alent
2016-05-27, 01:32 PM
But the point is, these all relate to things that a normal human could do, taken to an NI degree. Take punching to an NI degree and now you create combustible vacuums. Take cold reading to an NI degree and it borders on mind-reading. Take toughness training to an NI degree and it borders on invulnerability. Take jumping to an NI degree and it borders on flight.

Borders being the operative word. There are bounds. This NI martial can never truly fly. He's not truly invulnerable. He may have NI speed, but he can't truly teleport, nor travel to distant planets or other dimensions. He may have NI intuition about people, but he can't truly read minds. He may have NI vision, but he can't see through solid matter. He may be able to create shockwaves with his fists, but he can't actually conjure the elements, nor summon creatures to do his bidding.

As long as a caster can do these things and a martial cannot, the difference between martials and casters remains the difference between near-infinite and actually infinite.

How does the NI Martial stack up against Wizard if Wizard cannot summon monster, fly, teleport, plane shift, or genesis?

Because I have no problems with the NI Martial swinging his fist so hard he sends a shockwave of wind, punching the ground so hard that mounds of dirt erupt, flashstepping between two places so fast he gets two turns because he's in two places at once, etc... but Wizards hitting their "infinite" level of power pretty much tears up the DM's notes unless the DM has created an enemy capable of defeating even Datathe Wizard.

Frozen_Feet
2016-05-27, 04:02 PM
But the point is, these all relate to things that a normal human could do, taken to an NI degree. Take punching to an NI degree and now you create combustible vacuums. Take cold reading to an NI degree and it borders on mind-reading. Take toughness training to an NI degree and it borders on invulnerability. Take jumping to an NI degree and it borders on flight.

Borders being the operative word. There are bounds. True, but you're wrong about where they are. You are not taking NI stats to their logical conclusions, which you should've figured out just because several things you claim a NI martial couldn't do can be achieved with decidedly non-NI technology.
This NI martial can never truly fly. Yes he can, just like a bird can. If you can flap your arms fast enough, you will create lift.
He's not truly invulnerable. Yes he is. NI constitution means the martial can exceed the ability of all effects to damage him.
He may have NI speed, but he can't truly teleport, nor travel to distant planets or other dimensions. NI speed totally can let you travel to distant planets, and when approaching sufficient fractions of c actually allows for limited time travel.
He may have NI intuition about people, but he can't truly read minds. In any setting where a mind is not inherently magical, yes he can, because NI intuition implies ability to deduce all relevant material underpinnings of a mind by observing the end result.
He may have NI vision, but he can't see through solid matter. NI vision implies ability to see wavelengths of light which penetrate ordinary matter, so yes he can.
He may be able to create shockwaves with his fists, but he can't actually conjure the elements,
Meaningless distinction unless you arbitrarily decide magical elements are just better. Also wrong, because with NI strength you can fuse together new elements, possibly create matter from raw energy etc.

nor summon creatures to do his bidding.
Except, you know, other NI martials, who he can call just by shouting NI loud, and who will make their way to im NI fast.


As long as a caster can do these things and a martial cannot, the difference between martials and casters remains the difference between near-infinite and actually infinite.

Wrong. In addition to NI martial being able of several things you claim them can't, you've not demonstrated casters actually are infinite. Hint: they're not, unless you arbitrarily decide they are due to byuing into no-limits fallacy.

Cosi
2016-05-27, 04:03 PM
And being the wiseguy that I am, I'll point out that magic that verifiably does ANYTHING is still a massive boost in power over the 'real world'.

Only if what it does is better (or at least different) from what technology does. A computer can do billions of floating point operations per second. If you have a spell, with the standard "around six seconds" casting time of D&D that solves an equivalent math problem, it would be a curiosity at best in the real world. Even comparatively impressive spells like magic missile or fireball aren't much better than modern military weapons.


As long as a caster can do these things and a martial cannot, the difference between martials and casters remains the difference between near-infinite and actually infinite.

It is true that at the limit of infinite advancement, an uncapped character will exceed a capped one. But if that point is after the game ends, it doesn't really matter. If the Fighter can't be as powerful as Gandalf, that's a massive problem, because 75% of the playspace is "more powerful than Gandalf". Conversely, if the Fighter isn't able to go toe-to-toe with various comic book characters that created multiverses, that's almost a non-issue, because the game doesn't concern itself with that level of power for anyone.


How does the NI Martial stack up against Wizard if Wizard cannot summon monster, fly, teleport, plane shift, or genesis?

I don't care, because with the exception of genesis, that list of abilities are all things that I consider non-negotiable for PCs to get (or at least, be able to get). People want to play Summoners, so summon monster needs to be in the game. People want to play faeries or ride dragons, so fly (or flight) needs to be in the game. People want to have adventures in Hell, so plane shift needs to be in the game. I don't know that there's a specific kind of adventure people want teleport for, but I think that getting it is important for player agency. If you can't write a Fighter that can keep up with people that have those abilities, you should reject the criteria you are holding the Fighter too.

Alent
2016-05-27, 04:47 PM
I don't care, because with the exception of genesis, that list of abilities are all things that I consider non-negotiable for PCs to get (or at least, be able to get). People want to play Summoners, so summon monster needs to be in the game. People want to play faeries or ride dragons, so fly (or flight) needs to be in the game. People want to have adventures in Hell, so plane shift needs to be in the game. I don't know that there's a specific kind of adventure people want teleport for, but I think that getting it is important for player agency. If you can't write a Fighter that can keep up with people that have those abilities, you should reject the criteria you are holding the Fighter too.

Abilities not available to wizard does not mean abilities not in game.

There's nothing wrong with externalizing these things such that they are present, but not tied to class mechanics- A gateway to hell that requires a ritual, maintaining a stable of flying animals, potions of flight, etc.

The motivation behind the question is that Wizard (and by extension, Cleric, since this is a pretty thinly veiled D20 D&D discussion) represent a critical mass wherein "all the rules" are internally accessible- without limit- to the class. Therefore, if one begins with the assumption that Wizard doesn't have access to "All the rules", IE- has an upper bound, from this point, can a proper scale be established?

Essentially, I think I'm indirectly asking what mechanics truly make the wizard infinite, because my table plays at a low op cinematic level and I have no frame of reference for an infinite wizard breaking causality over his knee bar what I read here.

Arbane
2016-05-27, 05:14 PM
Essentially, I think I'm indirectly asking what mechanics truly make the wizard infinite, because my table plays at a low op cinematic level and I have no frame of reference for an infinite wizard breaking causality over his knee bar what I read here.

Read just about any posts by Emperor Tippy.

Cosi
2016-05-27, 06:09 PM
There's nothing wrong with externalizing these things such that they are present, but not tied to class mechanics- A gateway to hell that requires a ritual, maintaining a stable of flying animals, potions of flight, etc.

Sure, you could make non-combat abilities not class based (not sure how that denies them to the Wizard, but whatever), but there's clearly some limit to that. It is genuinely cool if talking to the spirits of the dead is a Necromancer specific ability or if crafting shadowy duplicates of real people is an Illusionist ability, and then you're right back to asking what the Fighter gets to compete with speak with dead or simulacrum.


Essentially, I think I'm indirectly asking what mechanics truly make the wizard infinite, because my table plays at a low op cinematic level and I have no frame of reference for an infinite wizard breaking causality over his knee bar what I read here.

In the abstract, the difference is that there's nothing a Wizard (or mage, or magic user) could do in a story that you would consider "impossible", excepting those things the story has explicitly defined magic as not doing. If Harry Potter showed up with a spell that caused the sun to go supernova, you might thing that was stupid, but it would not break the expectations you had about his character. Compare that to a more mundane character, such as James Bond. If James Bond were to leap over a ten story building under his own power, that would be a violation of his character concept.

In terms of D&D, there are vastly more than could be covered in a reasonable amount of time, so I'll focus on a few specific issues:

shapechange: shapechange says that you can Ex and Su abilities when entering a new form, but lose only Su abilities for leaving your old form. This allows you to stack immunity to all types of damage, hundreds of rends and rages, and a variety of useful attacks. There are also various other abuses based on how exactly abilities transfer.

planar binding: There are two primary tricks that you can do with planar binding. The first is to bind something with a favorable CR-to-HD ratio. For example, there's a CR 18 demon in the MMII with 12 HD. This allows you to punch above your weight. The second, and by far more broken, is to bind creatures which can themselves cast planar binding, then have them cast planar binding on your behalf. This is known as Chain Binding. Typically, it's done with Efreet.

wish: wish allows you to wish for a magic item. That can be any magic item, including ridiculous ones with effects like "Quickened wish at will". The intention was that this was balanced by requiring you to pay a massive XP cost. Fortunately, SLAs and Su abilities do not require XP costs. This can be abused with Efreet, Dweomerkeepers, or any of countless other tricks.

For a case study of one of the most overpowered builds in history, take a look at the Wish and the Word (http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/The_Wish_and_the_Word_%283.5e_Optimized_Character_ Build%29), two characters capable of killing any printed opponent.

Cluedrew
2016-05-27, 06:21 PM
As long as a caster can do these things and a martial cannot, the difference between martials and casters remains the difference between near-infinite and actually infinite.I'm actually OK with that because actually infinitely powerful characters don't really work. You can make it work, but there are only certain types of stories work with that. Types of stories RPGs usually are not geared to tell.

GM: "Describes problem."
Player: "I solve the problem restoratively so it wasn't a problem in the first place."
GM: "OK, no need to roll you succeed."

People tend to underestimate infinity. Outside of situations and stories built around it, true infinity doesn't work, it is worse than time travel because it includes time travel and EVERYTHING else. So personally I don't mind if the god-martial is finite*, but I would like to make it (in a word) god-like.

*speaking of which, does NI = non-infinite?


I don't care, because with the exception of genesis, that list of abilities are all things that I consider non-negotiable for PCs to get (or at least, be able to get).That's quite a statement. What you are saying is that no RPG that doesn't accommodate those abilities is worth playing. ... Don't believe in specialty games then? I suppose it makes some sense in the perspective of general games, but if you want to tailor games to a particular story, then you can often cut out abilities (and often should) that don't contribute to that story.

Also I got a little distracted and see that I have been swordsaged. I don't have time for a full response right now but I would say that most "good" magic systems give you a sense of what they can and cannot do even if they are not explicitly laid out. The ones that don't generally are made out of handwavium.

Arbane
2016-05-27, 07:08 PM
Sure, you could make non-combat abilities not class based (not sure how that denies them to the Wizard, but whatever), but there's clearly some limit to that. It is genuinely cool if talking to the spirits of the dead is a Necromancer specific ability or if crafting shadowy duplicates of real people is an Illusionist ability, and then you're right back to asking what the Fighter gets to compete with speak with dead or simulacrum.


Hopefully, being the go-to guy when you need to fight something. (It's right there in the name, after all...)

Frozen_Feet
2016-05-28, 07:18 AM
@Cluedrew: in this case, NI means "nearing infinity". It references escalating numbers which can go arbitrarily high; the growth potential is infinite, even if at no point the number itself is infinite.

Pun-Pun, in its basic form, is the most famous NI trick in d20 D&D, having NI ability scores.

An example of an infinite trick in d20 is the d2 Crusader. Crusader has an ability saying you can reroll any 1 or 2 on a damage roll and keep adding up the results. With a weapon with damage dice of d2, this leads to a loop with no defined end-point, hence the only way to describe the resultant damage is "infinite".

The difference between NI and I tricks is typically that NI tricks can be stopped by the user at any iteration of a loop, or still take time and could hence be stopped by an outside actor at any point of the loop.

Cosi
2016-05-28, 07:29 AM
That's quite a statement. What you are saying is that no RPG that doesn't accommodate those abilities is worth playing. ... Don't believe in specialty games then? I suppose it makes some sense in the perspective of general games, but if you want to tailor games to a particular story, then you can often cut out abilities (and often should) that don't contribute to that story.

Any game where those abilities are appropriate should make them available to PCs. It's fine if a Conan RPG doesn't have outer planes, or if Bunnies and Burrows doesn't support flight. But in the context of a game that is "like D&D" (or even "like Shadowrun" or "like WoD"), those are important abilities for PCs to have access to. Also, those abilities don't necessarily need to be available at first level. They could reasonably be options you gain as you advance.


I don't have time for a full response right now but I would say that most "good" magic systems give you a sense of what they can and cannot do even if they are not explicitly laid out. The ones that don't generally are made out of handwavium.

I think can and can't do is probably less important than consistent metaphysics overall. If the way magic interacts with the world is consistent, it doesn't (conceptually) matter as much if the stuff it does is fairly wide in variety.


Hopefully, being the go-to guy when you need to fight something. (It's right there in the name, after all...)

How is that a non-combat ability?

Florian
2016-05-28, 07:43 AM
I would say that most "good" magic systems give you a sense of what they can and cannot do even if they are not explicitly laid out. The ones that don't generally are made out of handwavium.

The better ones I know don´t fall back into the usual D&D error that anything has to be accomplished in just a handful of seconds or a mere minute.

In D&D, magic is usually the shortcut. In, say, Ars Magicka, you´ll also have to ask yourself the question if it´s not easier to just find a portal to hell instead of first developing and then casting Plane Shift.

Cluedrew
2016-05-28, 08:14 AM
To Arbane: In a system where "everyone is a combatant" is not an assumption would power the fighter up a lot. Still in tactical RPGs that is sort of an assumption you have to make, so everyone can contribute there.

To Frozen_Feet: Thank-you for that explanation.

To Cosi: OK that makes more sense now. Or I think it does, let me run this by you: "Games should have abilities that suit them. D&D-style* games suit high powered utility abilities. Therefore D&D-style games should include high powered utility abilities."

*or at least a particular D&D-style, there are a lot of styles even within D&D nowadays.

PersonMan
2016-05-28, 11:49 AM
Only if what it does is better (or at least different) from what technology does. A computer can do billions of floating point operations per second. If you have a spell, with the standard "around six seconds" casting time of D&D that solves an equivalent math problem, it would be a curiosity at best in the real world. Even comparatively impressive spells like magic missile or fireball aren't much better than modern military weapons.

I'd say it depends.

Fireball is not great on an open field battle, where modern artillery will make it look like nothing.

Magic Missile isn't worth much when you can pump 50+ bullets into the same target with the same time.

...But compared to almost anyone else, even a highly-trained elite soldier, an individual who can create a Fireball or use a Magic Missile to hit something with perfect accuracy, etc. is incredibly dangerous. It's not a boost in total power, but it puts an incredible potential for personal power into the mix.

charcoalninja
2016-05-28, 12:24 PM
It's worth noting that many D&D gods didn't have as wide range of powers as high level 3rd Ed wizards. Neither did Pre-3rd Ed wizards for the most part. Wizards in particular and casters in general were beneficiary of extremely large power creep between editions. So were gods, too, actually.

In early D&D, being a "god-tier martial" was easy. You put on strength-enhancing belt and gauntlets and then wielded a magic hammer, just like a certain Scandinavian god, and at Fighter level 8 or so you could beat down Lolth and greater demons. And if some wizard was feeling uppity, you were faster than them most likely, so you threw your hammer at them before they could cast and pummeled their squishy wizard body into oblivion.

Can't speak for 1ed but in AD&D (2nd edition cerca 1995) this was completely false as the Wizard had stoneskin on and was flat out immune to weapon attacks for the first 10 attacks or so.

Alent
2016-05-28, 02:12 PM
Read just about any posts by Emperor Tippy.

His character who became a planet is still a favorite story of mine.


Sure, you could make non-combat abilities not class based (not sure how that denies them to the Wizard, but whatever), but there's clearly some limit to that. It is genuinely cool if talking to the spirits of the dead is a Necromancer specific ability or if crafting shadowy duplicates of real people is an Illusionist ability, and then you're right back to asking what the Fighter gets to compete with speak with dead or simulacrum.

I wasn't sure how to reply to this at first, sorry for the delay.

When we compare classes like this, we tend to compare them in a vacuum. That's the important thing here, taking some of Wizard's abilities- and making them equally available to both martial and wizard doesn't deny them to the wizard, it denies them to the wizard in a vacuum. The distinction is important as out of the vacuum, these features would become equally available to the party, as opposed to being things the wizard just does. (with or without the party)

And yes, iconic magic like necromancy and illusions being a caster's forte makes sense- but consider the difference in power between a Dread Necromancer and a God Wizard dabbling in necromancy. Splitting Wizard into multiple classes doesn't take away player agency, remove "non combat abilities" from the wizard, or homogenize the wizard into something that's mechanically identical to the imaginary god-martial in everything but fluff. It empowers the agency of people who played something other than Wizard/cleric/druid.

Essentially, since Magic can't have limits, you have to set limits on the magician instead of on magic.


In terms of D&D, there are vastly more than could be covered in a reasonable amount of time, so I'll focus on a few specific issues:

...

For a case study of one of the most overpowered builds in history, take a look at the Wish and the Word (http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/The_Wish_and_the_Word_%283.5e_Optimized_Character_ Build%29), two characters capable of killing any printed opponent.

I will read this, thank you.