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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Pex View Post
    My argument is not to make the consequences so severe it punishes the player for the audacity of using it.
    I also notice a focus on randomness here. That is to say the costs that come up randomly are worse than the ones that can be counted on. This part is my take on it but I'm going to guess because both the random costs are so much higher when they come up and you can't plan for it because it is random.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    I havent read the entire thread, only the initial post.


    A lot of systems don't have the problem you describe. Yes those systems acknowledge that magic is powerful, they just give you less power. So when one PC is the deadliest swordsman in the land then the PC wizard might have a bunch of utility spells or some combat magic. The wizard isn't solving all problems with teleportation, invisibility, disintegration, flying or dropping a mountain on his foes. He isn't either ruining the economy with simple spells.

    So when the wizard has an open lock spell, he might also be dancing around, chanting like an idiot which isn't handy while you are sneaking, spending precious resources or just being dumbfounded because the door is barred from the inside.

    The problem is essentially too much power is given to the magic user compared to the mundanes.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Zanos View Post
    The other aspect I've seen to this is random rolls for magical backfire which is a dangerous thing to use too. The mage accidentally invoking powers beyond their comprehension and dragging the entire party screaming to hell is a good narrative element, but it's terrible for a cooperative RPG. The first thing you want to do with the guy who is actually a magical ticking hellbomb is shove him out the airlock, preferably into the nearest sun.
    Checks out.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Zanos View Post
    2) Ow. Even with daily magic people often run into the "I fire my crossbow" while playing lower level casters. Magic having permanent, irrecoverable costs is one way to make playing a magic user not very magical. Honestly that sounds more like a soft ban on people playing casters than anything else.
    Yup. This another problem with "limit magic" as a paradigm. Fundamentally, if you have a class that is a "magic user", they should solve their problems by using magic. If magic is so costly or so useless that they instead solve their problems by using mundane skills, you have failed.

    4) Mundanes should be boosted to do things that are equal in contribution to casters, but not equal in flavor. Punching to raise a wall of stone or jumping through space with just your ripped legs seems a little silly to me personally, but it also means that a "mundane" is just a caster with oilly muscles.
    You have to make mundanes equal in "flavor" as well, because otherwise you encounter problems scaling. People give more leeway to abilities that are "magic" when their users try to go off-script with them, because it is easier to imagine why you can't do something with "being very strong" than "controlling matter with your mind".

    Fighters don't really have a logical analogue to wizards in the double digit levels. Older editions handled this by making magic users significantly more difficult to level up than fighters. So a level 15 wizard was more powerful than a level 15 fighter, but the level 15 wizard needed a lot more XP to get there.
    I think the solution to this is very obvious -- move to fiat leveling so the people who want to play at a level where "is good at stabbing people" is enough to make you a useful character can do that without having to push out the people who want to play at the power level of high level casters. If you can't have Fighters at high level, then you need to either accept that some people's characters will eventually expire, or not make advancement an intrinsic byproduct of adventuring.

    6) Everyone playing a caster is one "solution.", but I think you're playing a very different kind of fantasy game then.
    What does "caster" mean? What does "non-caster" mean? Is the Warblade a caster? Is the Warlock a caster?

    Quote Originally Posted by RazorChain View Post
    The problem is essentially too much power is given to the magic user compared to the mundanes.
    Well, sort of. The problem is that people can't agree where the balance point should be. Should it be closer to the Wizard (which would involve buffing the Fighter), or closer to the Fighter (which would involve nerfing the Wizard)?

  5. - Top - End - #125
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Cosi View Post
    Yup. This another problem with "limit magic" as a paradigm. Fundamentally, if you have a class that is a "magic user", they should solve their problems by using magic. If magic is so costly or so useless that they instead solve their problems by using mundane skills, you have failed.
    Or they can use resource management effectively and save their magic for when they really need it - which is how spell slots are supposed to balance casters.

    Don't go nova every fight and it's not really a problem.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Cosi View Post

    Well, sort of. The problem is that people can't agree where the balance point should be. Should it be closer to the Wizard (which would involve buffing the Fighter), or closer to the Fighter (which would involve nerfing the Wizard)?
    Why not both? Speaking strictly of 3.5 here, fighters are too weak (even in combat--they're either super specialized or largely ineffective) AND wizards too powerful (more precisely, too versatile). The two are actually inverses of each other--fighters are only strong when they specialize (and thus lose any hope of contributing outside of their very narrow "I charge and it dies" niche); wizards (and clerics, and druids) are strong because they don't have to meaningfully specialize. A wizard can be competent at a wide range of things; a druid is a better fighter than fighters, and can summon a better fighter than a fighter, and can also do all the other things expected of a full caster.

    That's why I believe the only viable option is to make casters more thematic (no longer "it's magic so it can do anything") and thus more limited (force them to specialize, but give a wide range of specialties to choose from) AND drop the "fighters can only do it if a real person can do it" paradigm. Accept that all D&D PCs are special and outside the realms of normal humans. Allow them to do cool things at the cost of specialization. Can a heroic figure of mythology do it? Then a high enough level, properly specialized fighter (or other martial) could probably emulate it in one fashion or another.

    Force every PC to make meaningful, intentional choices with consequences including at character creation. No more "I can do anything, just let me change out my spells tomorrow" casters, no more Guy at the Gym. That allows the two to meet somewhere in the middle (right about where ToB classes are on the martial end).
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Psikerlord View Post
    True, quick combats should be the starting point.

    Outside of hit point attrition, save or die, and morale/flee - what else is there to end a DnD fight?
    Emphasizing combat results other than someone being dead or incapacitated is definitely something more RPGs should be doing, but also not the point. What I mean is that it would help if combat didn't revolve around swinging/shooting people until they fall over or getting lucky and removing them from play entirely.
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Cosi View Post
    Well, sort of. The problem is that people can't agree where the balance point should be. Should it be closer to the Wizard (which would involve buffing the Fighter), or closer to the Fighter (which would involve nerfing the Wizard)?
    This is the fundamental point that bugs me.

    IMO, the balance point is the module. Period. Can your character contribute reasonably to the adventure? Yes? Then good. No? Then you need a leg up somehow.

    D&D is, historically, primarily about combat. Fighters can contribute to combat in spades. There is not a problem. (fighters not being able to contribute much out of combat is no better than making specialist casters - I'm not a fan of either of those ideas, personally).

    Wizards can, at some levels / at some optimization levels / in some editions go overboard. This is primarily an OOC problem. And should be solved OOC. Just like bringing the übercharger or d2 Crusader on an unoptimized prepublished module should be solved OOC.

    Not only is this not rocket science, it's even things that get advocated all the bloody time.

    So... What am I missing? Why are we still talking about this?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    I disagree with this. The penalty for using the ability is baked in to it... if someone has the ability to do X, but with Y consequences, then choosing to do X is choosing to take Y consequences. Are you playing a Paladin? Then you're choosing to accept certain restrictions on your actions. Are you playing a Force User? Then you know by taking that unasked for Force Point, you're accepting the Dark Side. If the ability says "You can do X, but you will take 5 points of damage", then you know that doing X will result in 5 points of damage. Or a knockdown. Or what have you.

    The game becomes about choices and what cost you're willing to pay.
    MtG has this. Blue and two: draw two cards. Black and one: draw two cards, but lose 2 life. Thematic for the colors, different effect + cost, similar balance point in casual play.

    Quote Originally Posted by CharonsHelper View Post
    I think that's only if you have both defined very broadly.

    I think that an easy way to balance magic is to have it work normally on NPCs & most monsters, but have PC classes & special monsters (dragons etc.) have an inherent resistance where they can take a penalty and/or reduce their resistance pool - which could either be separate or combined with HP.

    After all - as you level in D&D HP gives you inherent and undefeatable resistance to being stabbed through the throat and being killed in one shot like you can be at low levels, why shouldn't the same be true of resistance to SoD and/or SoS spells?

    Though - to make that balance you would still have to avoid the 3.x power levels where casters can do things like create pocket dimensions and various craziness. But it could easily balance SoD & SoS spells etc.
    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    I still don't get the benefit of having SoD spells.
    "Look away", Persues says to his men as he removes the severed gorgon head from his bag.

    How would you recommend stating out that scene?

    Quote Originally Posted by CharonsHelper View Post
    I will say - while I'm dubious of using the same system in a D&D style game, it worked pretty well in WFRPG.
    It did? I mean, WF is a meat grinder with no applicable learning curve for player skill. Characters die like flies to critical hit effects, disease from scratches, fumbling magic, or ambient mutagins turning their brains to rocks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cosi View Post
    Yup. This another problem with "limit magic" as a paradigm. Fundamentally, if you have a class that is a "magic user", they should solve their problems by using magic. If magic is so costly or so useless that they instead solve their problems by using mundane skills, you have failed.

    You have to make mundanes equal in "flavor" as well,
    I like flavorful characters. Wizards who have to resort to pulling out their bows fail - wizards should be magical.

    Monks should be balancing on spider webs and ripping out hearts; Fighters should be NPCs, and true combat masters should be splitting arrows, looping off limbs, whatever. All the PCs should be different flavors of very cool, not the drab "+2 to hit" we usually see.

    Quote Originally Posted by CharonsHelper View Post
    Or they can use resource management effectively and save their magic for when they really need it - which is how spell slots are supposed to balance casters.

    Don't go nova every fight and it's not really a problem.
    That makes Wizards not feel magical. Note, however, that plenty of variety in their at-will cantrips, plus limited spell slots for big effects, plus ritual magic for even bigger effects, would work for me? How about you?

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    That's why I believe the only viable option is to make casters more thematic
    I have to disagree with this part. What if, say, Wizards could still learn any spell, but had very limited spells known, and Fighters got far more techniques than Wizards got spells known? Would that qualify as both a viable option and as not making casters more thematic?

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    It did? I mean, WF is a meat grinder with no applicable learning curve for player skill. Characters die like flies to critical hit effects, disease from scratches, fumbling magic, or ambient mutagins turning their brains to rocks.
    Right - and what was what WFRPG was going for. That was Working As Intended.

    That's also why I specifically said "I'm dubious of using the same system in a D&D style game", because that's NOT the vibe that D&D is going for. But this isn't the D&D board - it's the general RPG one, so I thought that it was a relevant point to make.


    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    That makes Wizards not feel magical. Note, however, that plenty of variety in their at-will cantrips, plus limited spell slots for big effects, plus ritual magic for even bigger effects, would work for me? How about you?
    *shrug* I enjoy resource management games. You can design it so that mages can still do 5e style cantrips at will to be magical, or go grittier where they have to pull out a sling or crossbow. Or the feeble psychic has to use a laspistol.

    Plus - there are generally spells which last longer than a single round. In 3.x my favourite 1st level spell is Silent Image (assuming the DM doesn't nerf it) largely because it works on nearly everything (I can't tell you the # of GMs in PFS I had to prove it worked against mindless stuff) and can last an entire fight. It's a very efficient way to be magically effective for a whole fight.

    So - you can either go mundane/cantrip (depending upon the game's vibe), go with long-term efficient, or go nova. It adds depth of play.
    Last edited by CharonsHelper; 2017-11-14 at 01:43 PM.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    D&D is, historically, primarily about combat. Fighters can contribute to combat in spades. There is not a problem. (fighters not being able to contribute much out of combat is no better than making specialist casters - I'm not a fan of either of those ideas, personally).
    In 3.5 (the caster edition), this was not quite as true at higher level.

    As the CR climbed above level 7 or so, the game started to shift as the monsters had to adapt to the expectation of Players having Magic Items.

    Fighters really, really need magic items to stay relevant to monsters whose defenses and tactics expect them. At some point the game tells a mundane Fighter, "GISH or die." Your Fighter will not survive the average combat without supplemental magic items.

    In fact, this is so true that the Fighter's entire regimen of abilities matter infinitesimally less than what magic items they are using. Above the E6 threshold, almost all monsters will have DR Nope to your weapons unless its at least +1 magic. Increasingly monsters will be able to Fly, so our Fighter better be saving up some gold to keep up or put up. Even a ranged based Fighter is at a disadvantage against a flying opponent.

    Invisibility keeps scaling to higher levels. Ranged Attacks are getting longer range and higher damage. Incorporeal creatures can be easily overcome with Ghost Strike weapons, but that is a hefty investment for a specific application. It will do you no good except against this one kind of creature. But if you don't have it when you need it, that one incorporeal creature may be the end of your character.

    But the versatile mages can just prepare a different spell to adapt to the monster tactics. They have so many different kinds of choices of tactics, but many of them do not involve having to go to the store and hope they have the right item in stock for an affordable price. They get to prepare the magic the game requires of them at no additional charge (unless you get *really* stingy about material spell components).

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    "Look away", Persues says to his men as he removes the severed gorgon head from his bag.

    How would you recommend stating out that scene?
    In a game? Don't. That, or make it a puzzle-boss scenario with ample telegraphing or a one-use item with conditions on its use, not a simple spell effect. Because otherwise it's going to quickly become the go-to tactic of the players (path of least resistance and all). 5e does pseudo-SoD effects by allowing multiple saves (petrification requires 3 failed saves, over at least 3 rounds and the caster's concentration can be broken or dispel magic can end the effect early). I believe that no single failed save (or attack that hits) should take any significant combatant out.

    This doesn't imply padded sumo combat--combats should take ~3-5 rounds on average.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    I have to disagree with this part. What if, say, Wizards could still learn any spell, but had very limited spells known, and Fighters got far more techniques than Wizards got spells known? Would that qualify as both a viable option and as not making casters more thematic?
    That depends on the techniques and spells in question. If your available spells are Shapechange, Polymorph Any Object, and Gate, you've got problems. If your techniques are "hit it with a sword," "hit it with your fists", etc, you've got problems. To make this work would require fundamentally rewriting the core of the game.

    I'll rephrase my statement--the most viable (and least effort) solutions include both adding versatility to weapon-users by eliminating the guy at the gym mentality and reducing versatility of casters by making them more thematic (moving everyone over to limited-list casting).

    I posted an attempt to do the caster side of this for 5e (the system I'm more familiar with) higher up. 3.5e would take a lot more work since there are more spells involved.

    As a side note: I find the martial/magic dichotomy to be a false, useless one. In a fantasy world where magic is omnipresent, everybody's magic. The distinction is between those who impose magic directly on the outside world (spell-casters) and those who use the medium of their body/weapons/etc (martials). Every PC can do things no regular human can do. Limiting one group to the Guy at the Gym is another way of saying "casters should beat everyone else because I like them more."
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    One thing that's also really good about specializing casters more is that they become more flavourful. If you want a way to give a high-theme caster some effect, it's hard to just give them a plain mechanism and have it feel right unless it's smack dab in their specialty (ie. Teleport for a Conjurer).

    For all its do-everything brokenness and general accidental invalidation of entire classes with class features, one thing the Druid does well is theme. You don't get Fireball and Lightning Bolt and Teleport, but Call Lightning, Fire Seeds. Teleport is substituted with Tree Stride and Stormwalk, which at least to me have a lot more magicy feel to them. All of those spells ooze flavour.
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Komatik View Post
    One thing that's also really good about specializing casters more is that they become more flavourful. If you want a way to give a high-theme caster some effect, it's hard to just give them a plain mechanism and have it feel right unless it's smack dab in their specialty (ie. Teleport for a Conjurer).

    For all its do-everything brokenness and general accidental invalidation of entire classes with class features, one thing the Druid does well is theme. You don't get Fireball and Lightning Bolt and Teleport, but Call Lightning, Fire Seeds. Teleport is substituted with Tree Stride and Stormwalk, which at least to me have a lot more magicy feel to them. All of those spells ooze flavour.
    That was the main reason I tried my proof of concept approach (posted above) for 5e. Not balance, since 5e’s close enough for me. But flavor. Letting someone show that they’re a fire mage or a divine guardian by the spells they have, as well as giving incentives to have a theme other than “I’m Batman” or “I read the guides.”
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Komatik View Post
    One thing that's also really good about specializing casters more is that they become more flavourful. If you want a way to give a high-theme caster some effect, it's hard to just give them a plain mechanism and have it feel right unless it's smack dab in their specialty (ie. Teleport for a Conjurer).

    For all its do-everything brokenness and general accidental invalidation of entire classes with class features, one thing the Druid does well is theme. You don't get Fireball and Lightning Bolt and Teleport, but Call Lightning, Fire Seeds. Teleport is substituted with Tree Stride and Stormwalk, which at least to me have a lot more magicy feel to them. All of those spells ooze flavour.
    Probably in the minority but I actually think teleport isn't that problematic of an ability. Normal teleport in D&D at least only lets you reliably visit locations you've been before or have seen with magic and aren't warded, so it's really just fast travel. "We have to walk a long time" is kind of a boring challenge at level 9.
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Zanos View Post
    Probably in the minority but I actually think teleport isn't that problematic of an ability. Normal teleport in D&D at least only lets you reliably visit locations you've been before or have seen with magic and aren't warded, so it's really just fast travel. "We have to walk a long time" is kind of a boring challenge at level 9.
    Teleport, in a vacuum (...ok, that came out wrong), isn't a problem. The problem is that spells are like ravioli. They're atomic entities that don't depend on anything else, while feats (in 3e) are chains. They're also (for many of the worst offenders) flexible. You can trade out one for another given a rest, while a martial has to rebuild his entire character. This poses balance problems in addition to leading to samey-samey-feeling casters. If every wizard has spells X, Y, and Z because they're the best despite them not sharing any other theme than optimization, it just feels wrong to me. A fire mage should have different spells than a ice mage. A transmutation specialist shouldn't also be a divination specialist. And spell schools are too wide and non-specific (and too few) to handle this.

    I'd like to see a cleric having to choose (with some domain/divine input) whether he's a "purge the heretic" type or a "I defend the faithful" type or a "I guide the souls of the dead" type. I'd like to see a druid have to focus on spirits (shamanism), animals/plants, or nature. They'd still get access to other spells but at a much reduced rate. Doing this in 3e would require a significant amount of work as you'd have to reassign spells to themes, not classes. 5e was much easier that way for many reasons. But I still think it's the way to go--more fixed list casters.

    I personally hate the idea of "Batman" wizards being the highest and best use of their abilities. Dunno why, but it's always rubbed me the wrong way.
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    The answer I came to in my own writing was just to make the Fighter-type classes ridiculous.

    Like, when you think of an archetypical wizard, you think of Merlin or Gandalf, right? But a D&D wizard is stopping time, insta-killing huge monsters, dropping meteors out of the sky, mind controlling dudes, and all kinds of other stuff with a consistency that (for the most part, Merlin's got a couple of crazy stories) puts them above the paygrade of those archetypes.

    For fighters, who do you think of? Conan? Beowulf? Conan could tear apart metal with his bare hands, pull down siege towers, survive a poison that could kill an ox in seconds, was described as "panther like" in his speed, stuff like that. Beowulf ripped the arm off a monster that had previously scooped up 30 men like it was no big deal. D&D Fighters don't do this stuff.

    In short, D&D wizards are stronger than their base fiction and D&D fighters are weaker than their base fiction. Making spellcasters weaker isn't as fun as making fighters stronger, though. Make fighters ridonkulously strong. Make them stupid fast. Let the fighter cut a truck in half or throw a dude into orbit. Let fighters shrug off poison because whatever. But then again, I tend to work with anime as a basis, so none of this comes off as outrageous. D&D's world has sort of set a precedence where magic can do anything, but the mundane is still very mundane. People can buy a wizard stopping time, but a fighter lifting two tons overhead seems silly. The first step to narrative parity is letting physical qualities be just as incredible as mystical ones--establishing that someone can get that strong, that fast, that durable just through training.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    I do like that 3.5 style wizards are encouraged to do research, seek out scrolls, and work with eachother since it reinforces tropes I like in association with casting, such as it being scientific but also requiring exploration, and wizards sometimes being secluded and standoffish.

    I've seen good systems where you needed X lower level spells in a sphere or school to get higher ones, which works well since you can dabble in lower level stuff but need to specialize in just a few higher level schools. But it's hard to get that with the flavor above.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lunatic Sledge View Post
    In short, D&D wizards are stronger than their base fiction and D&D fighters are weaker than their base fiction. Making spellcasters weaker isn't as fun as making fighters stronger, though. Make fighters ridonkulously strong. Make them stupid fast. Let the fighter cut a truck in half or throw a dude into orbit. Let fighters shrug off poison because whatever. But then again, I tend to work with anime as a basis, so none of this comes off as outrageous. D&D's world has sort of set a precedence where magic can do anything, but the mundane is still very mundane. People can buy a wizard stopping time, but a fighter lifting two tons overhead seems silly. The first step to narrative parity is letting physical qualities be just as incredible as mystical ones--establishing that someone can get that strong, that fast, that durable just through training.
    In favor of stuff like this. The stuff I don't like is lifting weights until you can shoot fire out of your eyes like you see sometimes. Lifting weights making you supernaturally strong is cool in my book. More Charles Atlas and less Avatar.
    Last edited by Zanos; 2017-11-14 at 04:30 PM.
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    In 3.5 (the caster edition), this was not quite as true at higher level.

    As the CR climbed above level 7 or so, the game started to shift as the monsters had to adapt to the expectation of Players having Magic Items.

    Fighters really, really need magic items to stay relevant to monsters whose defenses and tactics expect them. At some point the game tells a mundane Fighter, "GISH or die." Your Fighter will not survive the average combat without supplemental magic items.

    In fact, this is so true that the Fighter's entire regimen of abilities matter infinitesimally less than what magic items they are using.
    The game is "balanced" (and I use the word loosely) such that Fighters need magical items, yes. Is that the actual problem? Would the problem be "solved" If Wizards actually required their WBL to be able to perform the basic functions of their job? If all spells require an expensive, magical focus to cast? If, instead of what spells you have memorized, what spells a Wizard can cast is based on what items (priced by spell level based on WBL) they have?

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    I believe that no single failed save (or attack that hits) should take any significant combatant out.
    My low-level Wizards would love for this to be true.

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    This doesn't imply padded sumo combat--combats should take ~3-5 rounds on average.
    Hmmm... Probably the most bad-*** party I was in, rolling a 17 on initiative meant you didn't get to go, because the battle was over by then 90+% of the time. Fights were quick and the party felt epic. And, before you ask, these were mostly mundanes and gishes.

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    I'll rephrase my statement--the most viable (and least effort) solutions include both adding versatility to weapon-users by eliminating the guy at the gym mentality and reducing versatility of casters by making them more thematic (moving everyone over to limited-list casting).
    That, at least, is a defensible position. Not one I like, mind - I prefer for everyone to be playing the game 100% of the time, rather than everyone only participating in their little niche. But, I agree, it's both easier to implement, and more forgiving of balancing errors.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Hmmm... Probably the most bad-*** party I was in, rolling a 17 on initiative meant you didn't get to go, because the battle was over by then 90+% of the time. Fights were quick and the party felt epic. And, before you ask, these were mostly mundanes and gishes.

    That, at least, is a defensible position. Not one I like, mind - I prefer for everyone to be playing the game 100% of the time, rather than everyone only participating in their little niche. But, I agree, it's both easier to implement, and more forgiving of balancing errors.
    These two statements are at odds (and I don't see how you got the second from my quote). If every fight is over on the first two characters' turns, then most of the party didn't participate in each combat. That's horrible, horrible encounter and game design from my standpoint. Especially if those fights still took 5-8 minutes each. You have long stretches of absolute boredom from the rest of the table while one person adds up his dice. And then you move on. Or you're dead.

    Note--this idea that challenges shouldn't be overcome in a single action extends to all sorts of things. Any skill challenge that a single check trivializes is a bad challenge. Any social encounter that a single check solves is a bad challenge. If a single spell, feat, or other ability trivializes a type of challenge, either the ability is overpowered or the challenge is improper.

    Everybody should have something effective to do in every encounter (social or combat), should they wish. That could be skills, it could be spells, it could be weapon-based combat. As it stands, they don't. If we ranked the classes like racing games across the dimensions of gameplay, you'd currently have (out of ten) some classes that were 8/10 or better in many areas and 0 or 1/10 in the rest. Then you'd have classes that, if built decently, had 8/10 in one area and 4-5/10 in a couple more, with 1/10 in the rest. Then you have the poor fighter, who, if built to very specific specifications, has a 14/10 in one area (dealing damage if he can charge right) and a cow/10 in the rest. And there are classes that can't even reach that potential. A better, fairer, design would put all classes at 5/10 in most areas, with one or two weaknesses (3-4/10) and one or two strengths (7-8/10). No one should be incapable, no one should be dominant. No one class or ability should trivialize any relevant encounter or challenge just by existing.

    From the existing setup, you'd need to force casters to specialize more and martials to specialize less. Not entirely, but more from the casters and less from the martials.
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Zanos View Post
    In favor of stuff like this. The stuff I don't like is lifting weights until you can shoot fire out of your eyes like you see sometimes. Lifting weights making you supernaturally strong is cool in my book. More Charles Atlas and less Avatar.
    Eeeeh, you don't really get Avatar if you think thats how the supernatural martial art wuxia stuff works.

    in wuxia they would agree with you. lifting weights would not give you any form of fire-based technique. you need to specifically train and find enlightenment of how to do that in a way thats more specific and far stranger than just lifting weights, you can be just as great a fighter with or without learning the specific martial arts style to use fire. Mostly because lifting weights is just pure power, using fire is technique. as in, you need to do something specific for it to work, that fits with fire. you can learnt hat technique or you can decide not to, thats just a fighting style choice, that doesn't have any impact on your raw power.
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    Why not both? Speaking strictly of 3.5 here, fighters are too weak (even in combat--they're either super specialized or largely ineffective) AND wizards too powerful (more precisely, too versatile). The two are actually inverses of each other--fighters are only strong when they specialize (and thus lose any hope of contributing outside of their very narrow "I charge and it dies" niche); wizards (and clerics, and druids) are strong because they don't have to meaningfully specialize. A wizard can be competent at a wide range of things; a druid is a better fighter than fighters, and can summon a better fighter than a fighter, and can also do all the other things expected of a full caster.

    That's why I believe the only viable option is to make casters more thematic (no longer "it's magic so it can do anything") and thus more limited (force them to specialize, but give a wide range of specialties to choose from) AND drop the "fighters can only do it if a real person can do it" paradigm. Accept that all D&D PCs are special and outside the realms of normal humans. Allow them to do cool things at the cost of specialization. Can a heroic figure of mythology do it? Then a high enough level, properly specialized fighter (or other martial) could probably emulate it in one fashion or another.

    Force every PC to make meaningful, intentional choices with consequences including at character creation. No more "I can do anything, just let me change out my spells tomorrow" casters, no more Guy at the Gym. That allows the two to meet somewhere in the middle (right about where ToB classes are on the martial end).
    I fully agree with you're first paragraph, not so much the second.

    One could easily balance a generalist spell-caster against a mundane character if that is what is desired.
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    wizards too powerful (more precisely, too versatile).
    I don't think this is true, or rather I disagree that you can't balance the Wizard's versatility.

    Spell preparation gives you an advantage because you have more information when you pick spells than other people do. A Sorcerer picks spells when he levels up, which means that he picks against (roughly) all encounters of a given EL. On the other hand, the Wizard picks spells each day, which means he can (potentially) make better choices because he know what he's likely to encounter today in more detail than "a EL = APL encounter".

    I think those two things can balanced, and not with all that much difficulty either.

    Consider a simplified example. I'm going to roll a (six-sided) die, and you're going to guess the result. If you guess the result correctly, you win. Now, I give you two choices for how you guess. Your first choice is to guess four numbers. Your second choice is that I will tell you that the result is either even or odd, and then you will guess two numbers. Unless I've made an error somewhere (I don't think I have, but stats is weird), your chance of winning in either case is 2/3. Either you win on four out of six numbers (in the first case), or you win on two out of three numbers (in the second case).

    You can think of this as roughly approximating spell selection with the die roll as a choice of encounter, the guesses as spells known or prepared, and the odd/even information as divination. So if you make the choices of non-prepared casters sufficiently more broad than the choices of prepared casters, the characters will be comparably effective.

    There is the problem of non-combat abilities (which are a definite advantage for the prepared caster), but I'm not convinced those belong on the same list to begin with.

    That's why I believe the only viable option is to make casters more thematic (no longer "it's magic so it can do anything") and thus more limited (force them to specialize, but give a wide range of specialties to choose from)
    Thematic does not necessarily mean limited. Consider, for example, Magneto. He has a pretty tightly thematic power -- he can create magnetic fields. But his abilities are not terribly limited.

    So you start out with using magnet powers to throw metal at people. That's a pretty basic blasting effect. But it's a small step from "pick up some metal and drop it on people" to "pick up some metal and drop it between two groups of people", which is a BFC effect. Then you ask "what happens if I push metal instead of pulling it", and you can fly. If you can create a stable magnetic field, you can deflect bullets.

    But that's far from everything. People have some amount of metal in or near them, right? Fillings, keys, maybe some surgical things. If you pull those through whoever happens to be carrying them, that's a lot like a save-or-die. But really, does it matter if people have metal on them? Blood has iron in it, and iron is magnetic. So whats to stop you from pulling out people's blood?

    So that's a lot of destructive stuff you can do, but you don't have to be a villain. If you can warp metal out of shape, you can probably warp it into shapes. So you could build anything from buildings to weapons to minions.

    That's a lot of stuff. But still, all you've really done is figure out ways to use your power differently. What about poking at the edges of your power? Magnetic fields effect electricity, right? So what (aside from precision limits) is stopping you from reprogramming computers, phones, or anything else that runs on electricity -- hell, even brains use electrical signals.

    Incidentally, most of that is stuff that either Magneto or similar characters have done in comics (the brains thing, for example, is Jenny Sparks).

    None of that really crosses outside of Magneto's theme. He's not grabbing any new power, just using his existing one in different ways.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    IMO, the balance point is the module. Period. Can your character contribute reasonably to the adventure? Yes? Then good. No? Then you need a leg up somehow.
    Modules make bad tests. First, they're too long. A typical module is a dozen or more encounters. That's terrible for testing because you want to run multiple tests at multiple levels. Second, they assume a party. That's bad for testing because it obscures the contributions of individual characters. A party where one character does everything and everyone else does nothing passes, but it really shouldn't. Third, they're balanced around assumed success. A test that always passes is a bad test, because it's not really capturing information about balance differences. The expectation should be some amount of failure, because otherwise you can't tell if people are on the same power range.

    Generally, I think something like the Same Game Test is better.

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    They're atomic entities that don't depend on anything else, while feats (in 3e) are chains. They're also (for many of the worst offenders) flexible. You can trade out one for another given a rest, while a martial has to rebuild his entire character.
    Those are both good things. Feat chains were a bad a idea, and less things should work like them, not more. Similarly, having powers be flexible encourages people to think creatively. Those are both good outcomes, and the game should encourage them.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    I like flavorful characters. Wizards who have to resort to pulling out their bows fail - wizards should be magical.
    Two things:

    One: it calls to mind a scene where the immortal guardian of the demon king's prison faces down an intruder trying to break a demon out. The guardian is constantly changing forms, into a reflection of whatever emotion he is feeling at the moment. He breaths a shallow life back into the animated corpses (that look alive at first glance) that the intruder struck down on the way in, shows a kind of omnipresence about what is happening in the prison, undoes the intruder's magic and traps them in place without raising a finger. Then draws a sword and strikes down the intruder. That magical to me, and I don't feel that was a failure just because wish breaker doesn't have any direct damage spells.

    That is an aside, because it was a cool scene. Anyways, the main point I wanted to make is that I feel that magic becoming a simple convenient tool makes it less magical to me. I have mastered ancient and long forgotten art over years of study. And it is more convenient to use than a bow? It doesn't feel like a magical ability, it feels like I hot-keyed fireball to Num3.

    So yeah this post is really just a collection of slightly off-topic notes about the aesthetics of magic. But here they are.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    That makes Wizards not feel magical. Note, however, that plenty of variety in their at-will cantrips, plus limited spell slots for big effects, plus ritual magic for even bigger effects, would work for me? How about you?
    Your definition of magical sounds a lot like my definition of mundane.

    Magic that is commonplace, reliable, and convenient is pretty much just refluffed technology which hardly feels magical at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cosi View Post
    Blood has iron in it, and iron is magnetic. So whats to stop you from pulling out people's blood?
    Kind of a tangent, but is this actually a real thing? Will a strong enough magnetic field rip the blood out of a person's body?


    Quote Originally Posted by Cosi View Post
    Yup. This another problem with "limit magic" as a paradigm. Fundamentally, if you have a class that is a "magic user", they should solve their problems by using magic. If magic is so costly or so useless that they instead solve their problems by using mundane skills, you have failed.
    And this, right here is why we can't have nice things. It isn't the "guy at the gym fallacy" or some theoretical linear vs. quadratic math, it is the idea that RPG characters are not allowed to be anything more than the sum of their class abilities.

    If people believe that you are no longer a magic user just because you don't have a spell for anything and everything, or that you are no longer a fighter because you can do things that are not "fighting," then that is a huge problem with both balance and fun.

    Personally I see RPG characters as (fictional) people first and class archetypes a distant second, and heck, I even see classes as broad tool-kits rather than just their titular feature.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    And this, right here is why we can't have nice things. It isn't the "guy at the gym fallacy" or some theoretical linear vs. quadratic math, it is the idea that RPG characters are not allowed to be anything more than the sum of their class abilities.
    It also doesn't really fit any narrative-based archetype except wish-fulfillment ones. The limits of magic is an incredibly important theme in tons of literature, even the ones where the protagonist is very magical.

    Besides, if you really want that, in many systems you can get away with describing your use of non-magical skills or combat actions as enhanced or completely avoided by magic. Parry, Dodge, or attack misses? Magical deflection. Weapon attack hits? You magically directed it to the target. Stealth? Magically shrouded. Jump? Magically enhanced. Remember something (Lore skill)? Cast a minor recall cantrip.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Your definition of magical sounds a lot like my definition of mundane.

    Magic that is commonplace, reliable, and convenient is pretty much just refluffed technology which hardly feels magical at all.
    I am very much in agreement with this sentiment, but I also am a fan of magic which obeys set rules and is consistent in its outcomes. These are two sadly conflicting but desirable goals.


    Kind of a tangent, but is this actually a real thing? Will a strong enough magnetic field rip the blood out of a person's body?
    It is my understanding that hemoglobin-bound iron is not significantly magnetic.

    Regarding the so-called "guy at the gym fallacy": titling it a fallacy is ridiculous and exists only to poison the well against it. There's nothing fallacious about saying that a person whose abilities do not rely on defying the laws of physics (i.e., they don't use magic of one form or another) has to do things in keeping with the laws of physics. What it is is basically a tonal distinction, an aesthetic preference which people who like high-power play, who are common here, do not share. Some people prefer settings where no one is truly non-magical, while other people prefer more grounded works, where most characters, even significant ones, have no abilities beyond real-world capabilities. I personally would rather have a setting where wizard-types are fairly restrained than one in which the supposedly non-magical can do the impossible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Magic that is commonplace, reliable, and convenient is pretty much just refluffed technology which hardly feels magical at all.
    This is only true if magic does the things technology does. As long as we don't have teleporters, casting teleport will "feel magical" even if there's no chance it instead causes your brain to explode. Conversely, something being crappy, unreliable, or dangerous doesn't make it feel less like technology. Apple Maps was a bad product, but no one accused it of being sorcery. When your cellphone signal drops out in the middle of the call, that does not make you feel like a wizard. Nuclear radiation is dangerous, but no one believes that it is a result of eldritch powers.

    If people believe that you are no longer a magic user just because you don't have a spell for anything and everything, or that you are no longer a fighter because you can do things that are not "fighting," then that is a huge problem with both balance and fun.
    You don't have to have a spell for everything. But if the character you are pitching is a "magic user", their primary solution should be "use magic". Just like if your character is a "swordsman", they should solve their problems with a sword, and not by researching things. Are there characters that solve their problems by researching them? Sure. But those characters aren't "swordsmen". Are their problems swordsmen solve with research? Sure. But those shouldn't constitute the majority of their problems.

    To be clear, there is nothing wrong with saying that magic is dangerous and even the people who know how to do it mostly don't use it. But saying that those people are "magic users" or "wizards" is factually false, because their solutions to problems are not magical.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    It also doesn't really fit any narrative-based archetype except wish-fulfillment ones. The limits of magic is an incredibly important theme in tons of literature, even the ones where the protagonist is very magical.
    There's a difference between "magic has limits" and "people who are nominally magic-users refuse to use magic because it is dangerous". Mistborn magic has real, meaningful limits. But the titular Mistborn still fight with magic, instead of being expert fencers.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal
    Kind of a tangent, but is this actually a real thing? Will a strong enough magnetic field rip the blood out of a person's body?
    Strong enough magnetic field will rip everything out of anything.

    However, the iron in your blood is not ferromagnetic. You would need a magnetic field powerfull enough to cause paramagnetic effects, requiring orders of magnitude more power than, say, tearing a ferromagnetic object (such as a sword) out of your hand.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cosi View Post
    Yup. This another problem with "limit magic" as a paradigm. Fundamentally, if you have a class that is a "magic user", they should solve their problems by using magic. If magic is so costly or so useless that they instead solve their problems by using mundane skills, you have failed.
    No, a magic user should solve some problems with magic. The kind of problems he specialized in solving.
    But certainly not all of his problems. The sword user doesn't get to solve all his problems with his sword skills either. If he wants to make a soup, he has to use his cooking skills. But fighting with swords is still his profession and defining skill. The thing people pay him to do.


    And no, i have no problem with magic users using regular weapons in fights. In fact, i actually prefer that because that means they specialize in other applications of magic than killing things.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Magic that is commonplace, reliable, and convenient is pretty much just refluffed technology which hardly feels magical at all.
    Yes, that is what I was trying to say. But you said it better.

    For me at least there is a difference between magic and "alt-tech". There is also a difference between magic and impossible, but I will get to that later. I'm still trying to put words to this but the tech in Star Wars (Star Trek or any story with faster than light travel) feels like technology and not just because it is in a machine that does it. It follows the same logic of the machines we know, which includes the convenience, the repeatability

    Quote Originally Posted by VoxRationis View Post
    Regarding the so-called "guy at the gym fallacy":
    Good point, I would however call it a double standard. Maybe there are times where it makes sense, but when you are trying to create stories where both martials and magicians are relevant, and relevant in the same way, it's not a good idea. Although to me a martial is not "someone who obeys the laws of physics" but a "body user". Or, if a caster is a master of the unseen forces of the universe, than a martial is the master of the seen forces of the universe.

    You can see anyone's body, but only the fighter can get theirs to move like that. You can see the animals and plants in the forest, but a ranger knows how to seek out the ones that are good to eat. You can see the lock and the lock picks, but a rogue has mastered their use. You can barely see the enemy captain from here, but the master archer can still pin them down with arrows.

    I would go on with high and high powered examples, getting so some flat out impossible things near the end, but I'm out of time. But for me the line should not be that one does impossible things and the other does not, but the kind of impossible they do.

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