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  1. - Top - End - #31
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    Older editions of D&D, arcane magic features included:
    - glass cannon hit points and AC
    - very limited uses per day until high levels
    - slow XP table
    - could not cast effectively in melee

    Playing a Wizard was playing the game on hard mode, unless you had a wall of Fighters and Clerics in front of you for defense. Your role was artillery for very dangerous situations.

    Even so this broke down around or about level 10, but the game breaking down at higher levels due to magic in general is true for most editions of D&D. You either accept the silliness as all in good fun and plough on, or don't like it and reset with new characters. Or make an E6-like mod.

    Of course, in older edition getting a character to name level was quite hard unless your DM just handed out treasure like candy, which was unfortunaltey common. One of the issues with D&D's recent editions current rapid advancement is they didn't slow the progress to gaining higher level spell leveling up in the process. Getting access to level 6 spells used to take years of play, not less than a year...
    Older editions also didn't have meta-magic feats that only wizards could take, didn't have "defensive casting" or "5 foot steps" that would prevent a caster from being interrupted, casters lost their spell if they took damage while casting, spells had casting times that added to the casters initiative (Initiative of 15 and a casting time of 4, you START casting on 15, and your spells goes off on 11, leaving plenty of time to be interrupted), casters didn't have infinite capacity, always full component pouches, casters had to roll to see if they could even learn a new spell, rather than having them just spontaneously "poof" into their spell book, casters had to rest a full day to re-memorize used spells....

    The problem isn't that mundane characters are too weak, the problem is that 3.x plus casters got a huge buff that they really didn't need. Couple that with the unlimited multi-classing mechanic of 3.x and things start to get really messy.

    Plus, pre 3.x, each class had its own XP table. Some classes would need less XP than others to advance...the more powerful the class, the more XP it needed. Casters generally needed more XP per level than the Fighter did, but then the Fighter couldn't kill an entire room of orcs in a split second either.
    Last edited by Mutazoia; 2017-11-08 at 06:02 AM.
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  2. - Top - End - #32
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Mutazoia View Post
    Older editions also didn't have meta-magic feats that only wizards could take, didn't have "defensive casting" or "5 foot steps" that would prevent a caster from being interrupted, casters lost their spell if they took damage while casting, spells had casting times that added to the casters initiative (Initiative of 15 and a casting time of 4, you START casting on 15, and your spells goes off on 11, leaving plenty of time to be interrupted), casters didn't have infinite capacity, always full component pouches, casters had to roll to see if they could even learn a new spell, rather than having them just spontaneously "poof" into their spell book, casters had to rest a full day to re-memorize used spells....

    The problem isn't that mundane characters are too weak, the problem is that 3.x plus casters got a huge buff that they really didn't need. Couple that with the unlimited multi-classing mechanic of 3.x and things start to get really messy.
    Agreeing here, 3.X made magic much more easy. Now high level mages were always powerful, but they could be countered much more easily.

    Plus, pre 3.x, each class had its own XP table. Some classes would need less XP than others to advance...the more powerful the class, the more XP it needed. Casters generally needed more XP per level than the Fighter did, but then the Fighter couldn't kill an entire room of orcs in a split second either.
    Although it's nowhere near perfect.
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    My problem with these definitions is that they seem to preclude one of my favorite Magic tropes: "magic as an existential force."

    These laws would seem to imply that magic never spontaneously imposes on the environment naturally. While an understandable limitation, it seems boring to me.
    Yes, you can interprete the rules in such a way that there can be no magic without a magician. Please ignore the man behind the curtain. It's not as much as a problem as you probably think if your setting is full of intentional actors, whether those be gods, spirits, demons, faeries or just other humans. These can create the feeling of spontaneous, "natural" magic well enough.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    Now, if you meant these four laws dictated "spellcasting" rather than "magic," then the problem disappears as these laws now only have power over a mortal's ability to interface with and influence the effects of magic.
    I do prefer to make a distinction between "magic" and the supernatural, yes, in which case the former only governs "The art or practice of using charms, spells, or rituals to attempt to produce supernatural effects or control events in nature", while the latter governs any event which lies outside rules of the natural world. I further make a distinction between "supernatural" and "superhuman", to make clear that the latter doesn't necessarily entail the former. So, for example, a Kryptonian who is superhuman by virtue of absorbing energy from the Sun, is neither magical nor supernatural. A ghost is supernatural, but is not magic, nor is the ghost's supernatural ability to walk through walls an example of magic.

    Somewhat tangentially, "magic as a (singular) force" is one of my most hated cliches of fantasy.
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  4. - Top - End - #34
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by rs2excelsior View Post

    2) Magic is limited not in effect, but in use. Either in how often it is used, or with some kind of associated, permanent cost. Maybe you can cast your big spell, but it will drain some of your life force which you cannot recover (or can only recover very, very slowly). It would be as if every single spell had an XP cost. Might be an interesting paradigm to try; casters would necessarily limit their casting or fall well behind in level. Perhaps this could be made to work with a system similar to 3.5 where they naturally get more xp if they're behind the party, not putting them permanently behind the level track of everyone else assuming they keep their casting reasonable. Alternatively, although in many ways I hate Vancian casting, what if you had a certain number of spell levels to cast from, generally equal or only slightly more than your highest spell level, but must wait some amount of time before using them again? So your wizard is capable of doing things that the mundane simply cannot, such as suddenly being able to fly, but then is out of magic completely for hours or days and is simply a particularly squishy and unskilled stick-wielder. I think it could be an interesting concept, but there are several reasons why permanent costs for magic don't lend themselves that well to roleplaying games and in either case would probably just exacerbate the "fifteen minute adventuring day" syndrome. Which is largely another discussion, and not wholly related to how magic works.

    5) Hyper-specialized casters. Perhaps, using magic, you can learn nifty tricks that no one without magic can replicate. Sure, you can learn to teleport, which no one without magic can replicate--but in that time the fighter has learned a whole repertoire of tricks. I kind of like this as well, as it encourages mixing the two approaches. If the mundanes are the generalists, capable of responding to a wide variety of situations, it encourages the caster to have their one or two tricks, but also train mundane skills to cover other options. Likewise, perhaps mundanes can dabble a bit to get small skills in magic, or simply continue to improve a wider variety of abilities. It'd require some pretty tight balancing, but I think it could work.
    In my own FFRPG (link in sig), I went with an hybrid solution, combining 2) and 5). Combat magic is handled by hyper-specializing casters. A mage will have only a handful of spells, each with very specific uses (deal damage, heal, buff, etcetera), and their combat role is fixed based on the spells they know, so you'll have to occupy a specific niche and work together with the mundanes in your party.

    Out-of-combat magic (utility spells) is handled with method 2). Instead of having "spell per day", utiilty spells costs a metacurrency called Destiny Points (akin to fate points or other RPG metacurrency), so if you're using a spell as a "win button", you do it because you spend your DP for it. To earn more DP, either you must roleplay accordingly to your quirks, or put yourself in trouble, so there is no "5-min workday", as you'll only recharge your "win button" spells if the fiction dictates that, not simply by having time pass by.
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Frozen_Feet View Post
    Yes, you can interprete the rules in such a way that there can be no magic without a magician. Please ignore the man behind the curtain. It's not as much as a problem as you probably think if your setting is full of intentional actors, whether those be gods, spirits, demons, faeries or just other humans. These can create the feeling of spontaneous, "natural" magic well enough.

    I do prefer to make a distinction between "magic" and the supernatural, yes, in which case the former only governs "The art or practice of using charms, spells, or rituals to attempt to produce supernatural effects or control events in nature", while the latter governs any event which lies outside rules of the natural world. I further make a distinction between "supernatural" and "superhuman", to make clear that the latter doesn't necessarily entail the former. So, for example, a Kryptonian who is superhuman by virtue of absorbing energy from the Sun, is neither magical nor supernatural. A ghost is supernatural, but is not magic, nor is the ghost's supernatural ability to walk through walls an example of magic.

    Somewhat tangentially, "magic as a (singular) force" is one of my most hated cliches of fantasy.
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    Agreeing here, 3.X made magic much more easy. Now high level mages were always powerful, but they could be countered much more easily.
    And low level mages were, as I said, (very limits ammo) artillery. Very dangerous when they went off, but vulnerable as all get out and

    Even a mid to high level Mage was in serious danger unless they'd prepared lots of contingencies (which a smart wizard of course does), if you could get in a skilled warriors into melee range.

    I think the new edition does an okay job of balancing low level mages despite lacking quite so much the glass artillery feeling. The problem is people still complain it breaks down a bit at higher levels, because casters still quickly get access to serious reality-bending in the form of higher level spells. And that serious reality-bending actually WILL come up in a decently hung together campaign, unlike old editions, because it doesn't make 5 years (or skipping ahead) to get to level 14 any more.

    Although it's nowhere near perfect.
    By no means are any of my comments meant to imply oD&D (which I've never played), AD&D or BECMI ways of doing things are anywhere near perfect. I'm commenting on what the limitations were on wizards before. And they were stripped out almost completely by 3e. Which was overall a system that was hugely innovative and fixed all sorts of things in D&D-land.

    But that massive destruction of caster balance by 3e between casters and martial was not a small factor in why 4e happened in the first place. I liked both those systems at the time, so don't take that as editions warring. And the bounce back from that to 5e, which is a bring-back-old-school-feel edition, still didn't try to reintroduce those limitations. It's stuck with a bunch of new, and conflicting with old school feel, sacred cows:
    - levels up to 20 including spells up to 9th level
    - same XP table and (optional) atomic level Multiclassing
    - lightning fast level advancement
    - mages that aren't uselessly out of spells in no time (Cantrips in 5e)
    - mages that aren't useless in melee

    Overall it's done a pretty good job considering what it's balancing. But it's hard to balance a class that was designed to be a low ammo glass cannon, close to useless in melee, that would hit epic levels spells (6-7) after 5 years of play vs decent ammo fairly resilient can-cast-in-melee cannon that hits epic level spells in a year of play.

  7. - Top - End - #37
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    Daemon

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    I'm late to this conversation, but I strongly prefer solving this by narrowing the day-to-day versatility of casters (as well as letting mundanes have nice things by drop-kicking the "guy at the gym" mentality out the proverbial window). I don't mind that there's versatility, but you should have to build for that, and a blaster caster should have to make trade-offs with other spells. Not "oh, I'm not quite as good at them" or ("oh, give me a day, I'll prepare something else") but "I don't know that type of spell."

    I made an attempt along the lines of narrowing the versatility for 5e D&D. IMO, 5e is close enough to balance that my primary concern wasn't balance per se--it was thematicity. Basically, I wanted to drastically increase the number of spell lists and reduce the number of spells on each list. In part, I wanted a resource for NPC spell lists, but also as a thought experiment for PCs.

    Here's the google doc I created with the changes. I must stress that it's a WIP, proof of concept, least-change (so not rewriting anything I didn't have to) and not anywhere near finished or balanced. But I think the idea's sound, especially for NPCs. (Feedback would be welcome!)

    The essence was that I took all ~400 spells I had (PHB + the free sources) and redistributed them between 30 or so "themes". Classes determine which themes a character has access to (including some that can go "off list"). Each character has a primary theme where they pick most of their spells from. They may have one or more secondary theme (where they occasionally pick spells from) or may have another way of accessing other spells. For example, sorcerers don't get a secondary theme, but can cast one spell (of the appropriate level) from almost any list each day--each day it can be something different. Bard have a narrow primary theme selection, but get to poach spells from any other list periodically. Clerics get different secondary lists by domain, but have a relatively small choice of primary lists.

    This helps clerics (for example) feel unified but also differentiated. It's not just 2 spells of each level that are set by the domain--it's about half their list that'll be different between different domains.

    A particular attempt was made to spread the spells out--there are no spells unique to a single list. Yes, even iconic spells.

    In essence, I made each caster a limited-list caster (like a fixed list, but you might have a choice at character-creation/level-up to choose between two narrow lists). You could go even further and kill off/make up a lot of spells, but this serves my purpose.
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    There are a few concepts that help to balance magic that I have seen succefully implemented over the years. There is no need to implement all of the below in the same game, that would be a bit much.

    1) Make sure that skilled users of weapons are more reliable and efficient in combat (this is easier if combat is not the only primary focus of the game), in such instances magic is valued more for adaptability, support and as a different way to solve problems.

    2) Make magic unreliable: DnD is fairly alone in making magic always work (sure the target might resist the spell, but the spell still went off with no unforseen sideffects, targets still takes half damage from fireball even if they save, for instance), In many games there is some form of roll to activate a spell in the first place, and this roll might fail or even backfire, depending on the game.

    3) Make the cost of magic unreliable: This ties in to the possibility of a backfiring spell, but can be separate. If you don't know how much using magic in this instant will cost you, you take the risk that the spell you are trying to cast will have more side effects than expected, perhaps tiring you character, or more random side effects. This can either happen as a result of trying to cast the spell, or you might get the option to avoid the side effects and let the spell fail.

    4) Make magical abilities special: If each spell or other magical ability has a cost to learn it, and perhaps costs to master it as well, a mage can have very powerfull and varied abilities, without covering everything.

    5) Make magic need preparation to truly shine: This can be a way to regulate the power of magic while in the game, but it can have side effects on how players play the game.

    6) Make magic attract attention/be tracable: If many magical abilities are in the same subtlety category as rocket launchers, you can let those abilities compete with rocket launchers, while still letting more subtle alternatives be very usefull.


    Note that having these things do not neccesarily make a mage less powerfull than other pcs, often these disadvantages are compensated for by advantages in some form.
    For instance:
    • Mages in shadowrun are extremely powerfull if they have just a little time to prepare, but their spells tire (or sometimes harm) them and leave behind evidence.
    • Psykers Dark Heresy 2 (iirc the most recent WH 40k rpg) can have very powerfull abilities, but getting these to work reliably or without a small risk of massive side effects is hard and impossible, respectively.
    • While Jedi in FFGs star wars rpgs can use their force powers as often as they want, and in some cases guarantee their succesfull use (at a cost), but truly mastering even a single force power requires a major investment.

  9. - Top - End - #39
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    I've only briefly skimmed this thread, so I may be echoing others but that won't lessen my craving to bloviate (LUCKY YOU )!



    The OP seems most familiar with Pathfinder (which I have never played, but looks to me something that I might enjoy playing at low levels), since Pathfinder is based on earlier WotC D&D, I will speak on that and similar games.

    Balance issues have been there at the start of D&D.
    I can very much remember how in 70's early 80's it was hard to get anyone to play a "Magic User" (even when the Intelligence score roll was higher their Strength), simply because at low levels they had the least they could do (and the lowest hit points).
    Most everyone played "Fighting-Men" to start, but those few who played for "the long game" found that "Magic Users" vastly overpowered other classes at high levels. Thematically and for "world building" it made sense, magicians should be rare, and "the great and powerful Wizard" should be more fearsome then the "mighty Warrior". But as a game? Having separate classes each doing their unique thing is more fun, and always hanging in the back while another PC does everything isn't.

    While it ruins my "old school cred" I am in the tank for balance. So far in play (low levels so far) 5e seems to hit it about right, but I find high level play confusing and a bit dull, plus I lack the mental agility to effectively play a spell-caster anyway, plus I want to play Captain Sinbad the hero,



    not the villainous Sokurah the Magician!



    I bought and read the 3e PHB over a decade ago, and have glanced at it, 2e AD&D, 3.5, and 4e but I never played those versions of D&D, so grab a shovel full of salt..

    I've played B/X and 5e D&D recently, Oe D&D and 1e AD&D decades ago, and some other RPG's, so those are what I base my responses on.

    While in theory Magic-Users became the most powerful characters (it even suggested so in the rules:

    1974 - Dungeons & Dragons Book 1: Men & Magic,
    (Page 6)

    "Magic-Users: Top level magic-users are perhaps the most powerful characters in the game, but it is a long hard road to the top, and to begin with they are very weak, so survival is often the question, unless fighters protect the low-level magical types until they have worked up."...)

    IIRC, in practice Mages were so weak that no one I knew played them long. We only did it when we rolled badly or (briefly) wanted a challenge, so I never saw any Mages past second level that weren't NPC's at my usual tables.

    I did encounter some higher level Magic User PC's at DunDraCon around 1980 or so, but the players were bearded college student jerks, who thought they were all that because they could drive and vote!

    So what if my character is "Just another imitation Conan", is your Gandalf/Merlin/Thulsa Doom expy that much better?

    *rant* *rave* *grumble* *fume*

    ....anyway, it was such a long slog before a Magic User PC became less weak than the other classes that if they survived to become poweful it seemed like a just reward in old D&D.

    Unlike D&D, in Stormbringer, on the other hand, you became a Sorcerer when you had really lucky rolls (high POW), which made the other PC's sidekicks, which for a player was LAME!

    But as a Gamemaster I loved the Stormbringer magic system, which involved summoning and attempting to bind Demons (just so METAL!)..

    One of my favorite games to play is Pendragon in which all but the 4th edition the spell-casters are all NPC's and all the PK's (player Knights) rock!

    The "magic system" is a list of trope suggestions for the GM (unless you use the 4th edition in which magic use involves astrology, so you cast spells "when the stars are right", the 5th edition went back to magic use being NPC).

    !In the WotC 5e D&D I play now, there's more than one class that can cast spells at 1st level, and they seem to be at least equal to the non-spell-casting classes so the fun is more evenly divided.

    Many even suggest that Spell-casters are too powerful compared to non-casters which may be true, but that seems to be a just reward for how many rules their players need to keep track of in 5e D&D.

    I'm still having fun playing Barbarians, Fighters, and Rogues so it's cool.

    Did I mention the Pendragon magic system?

    I did?

    That's because it's AWESOME!

    Like the 1st and 3rd, the 5th edition of Pendragon has rules for Knight (including women Knights), Lady, and Squire PC's, but only the 4th edition had rules for PC Spell Casters, though IIRC correctly the 1st and 3rd editions had the possibility of some "Lady" PC's being able to brew a magic potion (I never saw a "second edition" and I don't think it was ever published).

    But really if you want to play a Spell-caster Pendragon probably isn't for you, I would look into Ars Magica instead.

    I went as far as to find Greg Stafford (the author), and tell him just how impressed I was with it.

    Sadly, when I tried to convince those I played D&D with (some of whom wanted to convince me to play Ars Magica), there were no takers (one said "Britain in the Dark Ages just isn't fun", and he never gave me back my copy of Katharine Briggs "Dictionary of Fairies". It was a loan not a gift , it's been nearly 30 years, give it back dammit! ).

    As sublime as Pendragon looked to be, I don't think that it would be as fun to play as the mix of D&D, AD&D, Arduin, and All the World's Monster's that I played in the very late 1970's and early 80's was (I don't think anything will be, fun was just more fun as a near teenager).

    Now let me please speak on a game with a BADASS! magic system (why thank you).




    Chaosium's old Stormbringer! game had a "magic system" based on summoning and attempting to control demons and elementals. It was completely BADASS! and I thought it was truer to Swords and Sorcery than D&D.

    The main flaw as a game was that it's random character typically generated made PC's with very wide power-levels (more so than D&D) so you'd wind up with a party of one mighty sorcerer and four drooling begger "sidekicks".

    I believe that Chaosium's latest version of
    Basic Roleplaying
    has a point buy option that you can drop in.

    If I'm ever forced to DM/GM again going that route would be in my top three picks.

    Come to think of it, if I could somehow combine '70's rules D&D, 5e D&D, Pendragon, and Stormbringer! it would be ONE GAME TO RULE THEM ALL!

    Both Stormbringer and Pendragon are descended from the Runequest rules (as is the more popular Call of Cthullu).

    Call of Cthullu had a magic system that I admire, the more you know of magic the more likely you'll go insane!

    Combine that with Stormbringer!

    In Stormbringer Instead of casting spells Stormbringer you summon demons and elementals to make magic. For more poweful magic you have to summon more powerful beings and they need to be persuaded!

    Couldn't demons just decide to eat you up yum-yum or rend your psyche and soul instead?

    Damn straight!

    What part of "secrets man was not meant to know" didn't you understand?!

    Practicing magic is a dangerous act, otherwise every Tom, Rick, and witch Hazel would do it!

    Magic as tool box "Levels to move the world" is LAME!

    Magic should be more like fire, specifically hellfire!

    Yes you may boil your tea (and incinerate your enemies!), but you run the risk of dooming yourself.

    Now that's genre!
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  10. - Top - End - #40
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    @OP
    One thing you can do is make offensive magic deal comparable damage to non-magical options and make utility magic useful for new options, but not overpowering and setting defining.
    An example of this is the Iron Kingdoms Full Metal Fantasy RPG (not the d20 Iron Kingdoms):
    -A moderately optimized spellcaster will do roughly comparable damage to a moderately optimized ranged character, but less than a moderately optimized melee character - and further optimization rarely gives spellcasters additional damage (and when it does, its from their non-spellcasting actions).
    -Most spells have little to no out of combat application. The few spells that do give out of combat benefits either enhance existing capabilities (the Occultation spell gives benefits to the Sneak skill) or are only accessible to very niche careers (the two spells that allow characters to walk through a wall can only be accessed by 3 of the 15 spellcasting careers).
    -Spells have a duration of 1 round or "as long as I concentrate on it and stay within 200 feet of the target". This limitation is made up for by the fact that characters are not limited in how many spells they can cast a day, but by what they can cast/concentrate on in a given round.


    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    I'm late to this conversation, but I strongly prefer solving this by narrowing the day-to-day versatility of casters (as well as letting mundanes have nice things by drop-kicking the "guy at the gym" mentality out the proverbial window). I don't mind that there's versatility, but you should have to build for that, and a blaster caster should have to make trade-offs with other spells. Not "oh, I'm not quite as good at them" or ("oh, give me a day, I'll prepare something else") but "I don't know that type of spell."

    I made an attempt along the lines of narrowing the versatility for 5e D&D. IMO, 5e is close enough to balance that my primary concern wasn't balance per se--it was thematicity. Basically, I wanted to drastically increase the number of spell lists and reduce the number of spells on each list. In part, I wanted a resource for NPC spell lists, but also as a thought experiment for PCs.

    Here's the google doc I created with the changes. I must stress that it's a WIP, proof of concept, least-change (so not rewriting anything I didn't have to) and not anywhere near finished or balanced. But I think the idea's sound, especially for NPCs. (Feedback would be welcome!)

    The essence was that I took all ~400 spells I had (PHB + the free sources) and redistributed them between 30 or so "themes". Classes determine which themes a character has access to (including some that can go "off list"). Each character has a primary theme where they pick most of their spells from. They may have one or more secondary theme (where they occasionally pick spells from) or may have another way of accessing other spells. For example, sorcerers don't get a secondary theme, but can cast one spell (of the appropriate level) from almost any list each day--each day it can be something different. Bard have a narrow primary theme selection, but get to poach spells from any other list periodically. Clerics get different secondary lists by domain, but have a relatively small choice of primary lists.

    This helps clerics (for example) feel unified but also differentiated. It's not just 2 spells of each level that are set by the domain--it's about half their list that'll be different between different domains.

    A particular attempt was made to spread the spells out--there are no spells unique to a single list. Yes, even iconic spells.

    In essence, I made each caster a limited-list caster (like a fixed list, but you might have a choice at character-creation/level-up to choose between two narrow lists). You could go even further and kill off/make up a lot of spells, but this serves my purpose.
    One issue I see is that for some classes, it is almost impossible to get spells from their secondary theme on certain spell levels.
    For instance, if a bard chooses Illusion as their primary theme (which has fewer spells at every level than the Mesmerism school), they have to learn 3 lvl 1 Illusion spells beyond their starting spells before they can learn a second spell from their secondary theme.
    The only way that they can learn a 2nd level spell from their secondary theme is by replacing their singular secondary-themed spell they learned at level 1 with a lvl 2 spell from the same theme.
    The earliest that a bard can learn a spell from their secondary theme without wasting magical secrets on something that should be available to them is level 6 (and then, it has to be their 3rd lvl 3 spell known). For a Mesmerist Bard, that would be level 14 (and must be their 4th level 6 spell known).
    Bards will never be able to learn a secondary-theme cantrip. (I think; the document doesn't list how bards learn cantrips)
    Bards do have magical secrets, but what is the point of giving them secondary themes if they have to use class abilities that literally ignore the themes in order to get those spells?

    Maybe a better way to do it would be to say that at each level, at least X of your spells known must be from your primary theme, and you can only have primary theme spells known for your highest level spell slots?

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    Thanks! I'll have to look into it.
    Oops!

    Fixed it. Just yours truly ranting about how it's awesome ^^'
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Balance is pretty easy, you just have to limit what casters can do, either organically or artificially. Plenty of MMOs can do it, and even D&D can manage it in some editions (particularly 4E); heck, if you limit your class selection to Tome of Battle and the Miniature's Handbook even 3.5 can swing in the opposite direction with martials dominating casters.

    I personally like casters to be a bit stronger than martials, but not unbeatably so. I like casters to feel rare, mysterious, and dangerous, and to be a challenge to overcome. In my game I handle this by strictly forbidding the "15 minute adventuring day" for PC casters, so that they can be awesome if they go nova, but need to ration out their power and give the other characters a chance to shine. Meanwhile the villains begin the fight at full strength, making an enemy wizard a truly terrifying foe as they can go nova all day long.


    Also, keep in mind that in 3.X a lot of the spells themselves are broken, and nothing you can do to the core rules or the class chassis is going to fix that. You could play with a AD&D mage, but if you give him nothing but the 3.X versions of either the shape-changing chain (Alter Self, Polymorph, Baleful Polymorph, Polymorph any Object, Shape-change) or the Summoning Chain (Summon Monster, Planar Ally/Binding, Gate) they will still utterly break the game do to the open ended nature of those spells as well as the ability to use them to break magical thermodynamics and get more spell slots out of them than you put in.
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I personally like casters to be a bit stronger than martials, but not unbeatably so. I like casters to feel rare, mysterious, and dangerous, and to be a challenge to overcome. In my game I handle this by strictly forbidding the "15 minute adventuring day" for PC casters, so that they can be awesome if they go nova, but need to ration out their power and give the other characters a chance to shine. Meanwhile the villains begin the fight at full strength, making an enemy wizard a truly terrifying foe as they can go nova all day long.
    This was another 3.x change that empowered casters... reduced memorization/preparation time. Recovering spells for a high-level caster in AD&D could take days. No matter your level in 3.x, it takes an hour. "Going Nova" in AD&D was much more costly... it took more time to recover from it, and, because saving throws were more weighted on the defensive side at high levels, it was less effective.
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    This was another 3.x change....

    The more I learn of it, the more 3.x sounds like "The caster edition", and "Not for me".

    FWLIW, if I'm invited to play five sessions WotC 5e D&D is my choice, but if I'm invited to play fifty sessions TSR D&D is my choice
    (Assuming 2e AD&D plays like 1e AD&D, I already know B/X and RC play close enough to oD&D).

    As to the thread topic, if spell-casting is powerful, make it dangerous to the caster and/or what the caster loves.

    Elric had a very powerful magic sword....

    ....which had a habit of consuming the lives and souls of Elric's loved ones.

    Make magic have a price, or make it NPC only (the Pendragon model), or make everyone a caster (the Ars Magically model).

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    I've always favored the Glorantha method of "everyone's a caster." It puts a fairly big impetus on finding/earning your magic, but once you have it, it's fairly reliable (though sometimes one-shot). Also, unless you're a sorcerous wierdo, powerful magic is usually clerical, so getting it involves a lot of sucking up to the priests (lots of plot hooks there!) or shamanistic (requiring you to play spiritual pokemon).

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by 2D8HP View Post
    The more I learn of it, the more 3.x sounds like "The caster edition", and "Not for me".

    FWLIW, if I'm invited to play five sessions WotC 5e D&D is my choice, but if I'm invited to play fifty sessions TSR D&D is my choice
    (Assuming 2e AD&D plays like 1e AD&D, I already know B/X and RC play close enough to oD&D).

    As to the thread topic, if spell-casting is powerful, make it dangerous to the caster and/or what the caster loves.

    Elric had a very powerful magic sword....

    ....which had a habit of consuming the lives and souls of Elric's loved ones.

    Make magic have a price, or make it NPC only (the Pendragon model), or make everyone a caster (the Ars Magically model).
    It really isn't so bad until you get past about 6 level or so. Hence the E6 mod

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    So it seems like a lot of other people are also onboard with increasing the specialization of casters. I think that's probably the best single way to try and go about it. Keeps the fact that magic can do things that mundanes can't, without making once class invalidate several others. Regardless of the number of spells, the fact that casters have the advantage in both breadth and depth seems to be largely why they are simply better in 3.5 and company. Giving the breadth advantage to non-casters seems like an interesting way to invert that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I personally like casters to be a bit stronger than martials, but not unbeatably so. I like casters to feel rare, mysterious, and dangerous, and to be a challenge to overcome. In my game I handle this by strictly forbidding the "15 minute adventuring day" for PC casters, so that they can be awesome if they go nova, but need to ration out their power and give the other characters a chance to shine. Meanwhile the villains begin the fight at full strength, making an enemy wizard a truly terrifying foe as they can go nova all day long.
    This is also part of the issue, I think--people think of magic as something mysterious, terrifying, and awesome (in the biblical sense). Which works great for a story, with the wise old wizard who you really don't want to annoy, but less well for a game where that wizard will be adventuring alongside someone who hits stuff with a stick. The 15-minute adventuring day is, I agree, largely responsible, so giving players a situation where they can't just rest and recover after every fight is useful.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2D8HP View Post
    The more I learn of it, the more 3.x sounds like "The caster edition", and "Not for me".
    3e was definitely the "casters get nice things" edition. 3.5 was the "and let's take nice things away from the mundanes" edition.

    Even so, a "mundane" Fighter can deal enough damage to one-shot an ancient dragon, so it's not like 3e mundane characters are weak or anything.

    But 2e is definitely my favorite edition, for having just the right feel of everyone being useful, but Fighters more so, so that the all-Fighter party is a thing, my Wizards are blessedly rare, and the all-wizard party is all but inconceivable.

    Quote Originally Posted by rs2excelsior View Post
    So it seems like a lot of other people are also onboard with increasing the specialization of casters. I think that's probably the best single way to try and go about it. Keeps the fact that magic can do things that mundanes can't, without making once class invalidate several others. Regardless of the number of spells, the fact that casters have the advantage in both breadth and depth seems to be largely why they are simply better in 3.5 and company. Giving the breadth advantage to non-casters seems like an interesting way to invert that.
    Personally, I really love the old-school D&D model of the wizard who delves into ancient ruins in search of fragments of lost knowledge. As such, for that D&D archetype, I'm not a fan of such specialization.

    Although, personally, I would love if the balance point was "use your spells at will (just like mundane abilities), but acquire fewer of them than the more versatile mundane abilities".

    Quote Originally Posted by rs2excelsior View Post
    This is also part of the issue, I think--people think of magic as something mysterious, terrifying, and awesome (in the biblical sense). Which works great for a story, with the wise old wizard who you really don't want to annoy, but less well for a game where that wizard will be adventuring alongside someone who hits stuff with a stick. The 15-minute adventuring day is, I agree, largely responsible, so giving players a situation where they can't just rest and recover after every fight is useful.
    "Guy who hits stuff with a stick" really doesn't sound terribly interesting, regardless of who he's adventuring with.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    3e was definitely the "casters get nice things" edition. 3.5 was the "and let's take nice things away from the mundanes" edition. :
    Is it really? Aside from moving some of the class abilities to second level to prevent dipping I can't think of any significant nerfs to martial characters between 3.0 and 3.5. Care to elaborate?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Even so, a "mundane" Fighter can deal enough damage to one-shot an ancient dragon, so it's not like 3e mundane characters are weak or anything
    Technically yes, although it requires some serious optimization using multiple non core books, and requires the dragon to be in just the right circumstances as well as not being similarly optimized. A more "generic" fighter takes a lot longer to kill a dragon than his AD&D counterpart did.

    Meanwhile, the core only wizard can utterly break the game in a plethora of ways just using the core only spells in a relatively straightforward manner.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Although, personally, I would love if the balance point was "use your spells at will (just like mundane abilities), but acquire fewer of them than the more versatile mundane abilities".
    Good news! There is a class for that, it is called the warlock, and generally considered to be one of the best balanced classes in 3.5. Personally I feel it is a little bit too weak and predictable to do a wizard justice, but it works well enough from a game balance perspective. I just wish they would make a martial class that followed the same design philosophy.


    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    "Guy who hits stuff with a stick" really doesn't sound terribly interesting, regardless of who he's adventuring with.
    I think if this were actually the case Hollywood would have spent the last 50+ years making a hell of a lot less action movies about tough guys who solve their problems with violence.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I think if this were actually the case Hollywood would have spent the last 50+ years making a hell of a lot less action movies about tough guys who solve their problems with violence.
    I assume you meant "wouldn't have".

    But yeah, even in stories (movie or novel) that include magic, the protagonist is often a warrior-ish character with either a magic item, or who uses magic to fight better. Even when their magic is eventually insanely more powerful used directly, they'll often be or become skilled warriors too.

    Less physically oriented 'wizardly' characters tend to either be advisors, allies, or enemies.
    Last edited by Tanarii; 2017-11-09 at 09:23 PM.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    I assume you meant "wouldn't have".
    Pretty sure I said it right. If martials were completely uninteresting, Hollywood would have spent less time making movies about them.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Pretty sure I said it right. If martials were completely uninteresting, Hollywood would have spent less time making movies about them.
    Totally didn't read it right. "Making a lot less", not "making". /doh

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I think if this were actually the case Hollywood would have spent the last 50+ years making a hell of a lot less action movies about tough guys who solve their problems with violence.
    But yeah, even in stories (movie or novel) that include magic, the protagonist is often a warrior-ish character with either a magic item, or who uses magic to fight better. Even when their magic is eventually insanely more powerful used directly, they'll often be or become skilled warriors too.
    To be fair, movies and video games are a much more visually based medium. While you can add all the visuals you want to a TTRPGs, they have more in common with books than movies.

    It is exciting to see a guy cut off a goblin's head with an axe. It is dramatically less so to only hear it said to have happened.

    On the other hand, creating magical visuals in video games and movies takes a mountain more work than having an actor swing a prop at another actor. When it works, it's at least as interesting as a guy swinging a sword for visual stimulation, if not more so. But describing magic verbally through a book or TTRPG leaves the audience imagining the magical effect, which usually creates an actually more powerful impression of the magical effect than trying to be imaginative enough to show someone your vision and wow them with your creativity (instead of asking them to help you by using their own).

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Is it really? Aside from moving some of the class abilities to second level to prevent dipping I can't think of any significant nerfs to martial characters between 3.0 and 3.5. Care to elaborate?
    Oh dear deity, where to start? Off the top of my head,

    • Crit stacking
    • Vorpal
    • Rhino Hide Armor
    • Partial charge
    • Flurry of Blows ¿
    • Slower class feature acquisition
    • Limited abilities (like Int to AC) to class level
    • Haste*
    • Persist*
    • Monster HP
    • DR ¿
    • Item costs** ¿

    *Yes, nerfing buff spells is a hit to the mundane characters, both in general, and as they are the optimal targets for such spells.
    ** especially flight, but all price increases reduce how much other gear the Fighter can afford.
    ¿ admittedly, these also saw some improvements over 3e - namely, getting to count BAB from other classes, better enchantment stacking rules (sorry for your bad luck that your GM doesn't allow custom items) and lower overall DR. But that doesn't change the fact that there were also nerfs here.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Technically yes, although it requires some serious optimization using multiple non core books, and requires the dragon to be in just the right circumstances as well as not being similarly optimized. A more "generic" fighter takes a lot longer to kill a dragon than his AD&D counterpart did.
    A generic fighter isn't playing the game. We call that an NPC. A heroic Fighter is bloody awesome!

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Good news! There is a class for that, it is called the warlock, and generally considered to be one of the best balanced classes in 3.5. Personally I feel it is a little bit too weak and predictable to do a wizard justice, but it works well enough from a game balance perspective. I just wish they would make a martial class that followed the same design philosophy.
    The Warlock gets his powers through an infernal contract. The Warlock does not explore ancient ruins in search of lost scraps of arcane knowledge.

    Of course, the 3e Wizard gets 2 (or more) spells automatically every time he levels, and just walks down to the corner Magic Mart to buy more spells, so I don't really find him interesting, either.

    No, 3e saw the end of the interesting archetype of "D&D Wizard" that I enjoy.

    Now, if someone wanted to bring that back, but balance it with learning fewer at-will spells than the at-will abilities of the Combat Master, Skill Monkey, or Wuxia class, I could probably be reasonably happy.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    The Warlock gets his powers through an infernal contract. The Warlock does not explore ancient ruins in search of lost scraps of arcane knowledge.
    Come on, now. A warlock could still be exploring ancient ruins in search of lost scraps of arcane knowledge. Maybe that's how they figured out how to make an infernal pact in the first place?

    Now that their soul belongs to some devil, maybe they have more reason to seek to learn more arcane knowledge, hoping to find some loophole to win back their soul without giving up their power (ever seen Constantine)? They don't know how much time they have left to work with.

    Your problem lies only in the setting provided as well as your own self-imposed creative limitations.

    After all, the common advice to "my monk sucks at wuxia hero" is "build unarmed swordsage and call it a monk."

    A personal quest for arcane knowledge is independent of your class.
    Last edited by Pleh; 2017-11-10 at 07:15 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    Come on, now. A warlock could still be exploring ancient ruins in search of lost scraps of arcane knowledge. Maybe that's how they figured out how to make an infernal pact in the first place?

    Now that their soul belongs to some devil, maybe they have more reason to seek to learn more arcane knowledge, hoping to find some loophole to win back their soul without giving up their power (ever seen Constantine)? They don't know how much time they have left to work with.

    Your problem lies only in the setting provided as well as your own self-imposed creative limitations.

    After all, the common advice to "my monk sucks at wuxia hero" is "build unarmed swordsage and call it a monk."

    A personal quest for arcane knowledge is independent of your class.
    The Warlock does not gain power and abilities more or less exclusively by searching for scraps of arcane lore in abandoned ruins of lost civilizations in a normal game, the way a 2e or earlier Wizard did. Better?
    Last edited by Quertus; 2017-11-10 at 08:06 AM.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    For No 2 – limiting casting

    We use GURPs a bit and there are a number of options – Low Manner is one that makes it a lot harder to cast spells

    However one I quite like is the unlimited Manne Mage

    In the standard system you have X amount of FT and spells cost FT to caste (and that cost reduces as you get better). You recover the FT quite quickly

    For unlimited manner Mages you have a much higher FT pool (often 3 times plus “the normal” ) BUT you recover FT at only a few points a day. That way casting a spell is something you think about. It also lets you specialise by becoming a “Jonny 1 spell” where you get really good at one spell so its free to cast

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    The Warlock does not gain power and abilities more or less exclusively by searching for scraps of arcane lore in abandoned ruins of lost civilizations in a normal game, the way a 2e or earlier Wizard did. Better?
    Fine enough, if that's how you like your games.

    I guess my point is that 3.x and later editions seem actually better to me because they do nothing to prevent a wizard from functioning exactly as if they were in the earlier editions (as you prefer) while allowing other players to run their Wizard arcs differently.

    All you have to do to enjoy 3.5 is ask your DM to establish your setting so that wizards have to get more spells by searching for arcane secrets. Problem solved.

    Meanwhile, players who prefer their wizards in other forms of character progression can still use 3.5 to have it their way, too.

    I only see their flexibility as a benefit to the system, since it could accommodate your preference in addition to others.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    But describing magic verbally through a book or TTRPG leaves the audience imagining the magical effect, which usually creates an actually more powerful impression of the magical effect than trying to be imaginative enough to show someone your vision and wow them with your creativity (instead of asking them to help you by using their own).
    Then why are fantasy book protagonists very commonly also warriors with powerful magic items, warriors that use magic to enhance their fighting with magic (ie GISH), or directly mages that still become warriors anyway and regularly fight despite their magic being a magnitude of power greater than mundane fighting? (Rand Al-Thor comes to mind as a great example of the last.)

    Even in novels, 'hit things with sticks' is rarely treated as boring or something the protagonists aren't skilled at.

    The problem is that most of the time, physical combat breaks down in TRPGs as one of two things:
    - hit targets defensive value
    - hit a static value, target either dodges or parries

    It's entirely on the game master and players to turn this into exciting fights with descriptions. But for most players and DMs, it gets tedious round after round after round.

    That's why 4e tried to spice it up with powers. IMO as a player, that was absolutely genius, but unfortunaley it didn't fly with the General D&D gaming populace.

    5e I use a different tactic: speed. Players have to declare what they're doing as soon as their turn starts. They need to know all the details of their move and more importantly casts. Even with a battle bat there is no slowly counting squares on your turn. Tell me where you move and what you do and what you target. Physical attackers have a solid fallback default action, they can hit something for very solid numbers, which feels good. Casters need to be on their A game, because they need to be able to pick from a bunch of options on the fly, and not make silly mistakes. They can (and often do) fall back on a cantrip, but that does significantly less damage (about 1/2) than a physical attacker.

    This has the advantages of making combat stressful, which enhances verisimilitude of sudden eruptions of violence. As well as getting them resolved quicker (about 15 minutes for most combats), and adding pacing to the game. Slow careful exploration, tense social negotiations/interactions, fast and scarier than they actually are combats.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    A generic fighter isn't playing the game. We call that an NPC. A heroic Fighter is bloody awesome!
    They were in AD&D, which is what you compared them to.

    And in 5e, they are heroic and awesome.

    3e was definitely a low point. But that's because Fighters were not buffed, and casters lost most of their limitations without having the power of magic rebalanced properly to compensate.

    The Warlock gets his powers through an infernal contract. The Warlock does not explore ancient ruins in search of lost scraps of arcane knowledge.
    They are in 5e. Says so right on the can. They just don't do it in the direct form of "find scroll --> spell book". But they find magic times, and their gaining of class levels & associated features incorporates power they've gained by finding lost scraps of arcane knowledge. It's indirect, in that gained XP = new class features. But the class itself says that's how some of the features come about, not just granted from their patron.
    Last edited by Tanarii; 2017-11-10 at 12:20 PM.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    Fine enough, if that's how you like your games.

    I guess my point is that 3.x and later editions seem actually better to me because they do nothing to prevent a wizard from functioning exactly as if they were in the earlier editions (as you prefer) while allowing other players to run their Wizard arcs differently.

    All you have to do to enjoy 3.5 is ask your DM to establish your setting so that wizards have to get more spells by searching for arcane secrets. Problem solved.

    Meanwhile, players who prefer their wizards in other forms of character progression can still use 3.5 to have it their way, too.

    I only see their flexibility as a benefit to the system, since it could accommodate your preference in addition to others.
    2e had both, via Skills & Powers. But I don't recall anyone bring willing to nerf their Wizard even further to pay for the benefit of automatic spell acquisition.

    Whereas in 3e, it's bad enough that my signature character is tactically inept - I imagine I might get books thrown at me if I tried to convince the GM to nerf my automatic spell acquisition.

    Even if there was an ACF that would let me sacrifice automatic spell acquisition, I can't see a way to build a character to avoid being able to buy scrolls, while still being able to acquire new spells from scrolls found in loot. And I can just imagine the riots that would start if I tried to convince the GM to remove magic item shops from the world to prevent spell acquisition via that avenue.

    No, my Wizard archetype no longer exists.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    They were in AD&D, which is what you compared them to.

    And in 5e, they are heroic and awesome.

    3e was definitely a low point. But that's because Fighters were not buffed, and casters lost most of their limitations without having the power of magic rebalanced properly to compensate.
    Well-built fighters one-shotting ancient dragons was Fighters' low point. Now that's what I'm talking about. That's Heroic! That's what a PC's low point should look like!

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    They are in 5e. Says so right on the can. They just don't do it in the direct form of "find scroll --> spell book". But they find magic times, and their gaining of class levels & associated features incorporates power they've gained by finding lost scraps of arcane knowledge. It's indirect, in that gained XP = new class features. But the class itself says that's how some of the features come about, not just granted from their patron.
    The mechanics not matching the fluff is not in any way encouraging here. I want a chocolate cake. 2e had chocolate cake. 3e has a solid block of chocolate in a cake box. 5e has strawberry cake that they label chocolate cake. Somehow, that just isn't satisfying.
    Last edited by Quertus; 2017-11-10 at 02:07 PM.

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