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The Fighter, revisited (again) [D&D 3.5]

   
Well, the point of this thread is to fix things with as few new mechanics as possible. That's the premise that TheFred led with. So, no new mechanics.

Casters can't learn SLA's or copy them into as book. It's just not possible. So that's not really a concern.

I think the first thing you need to do, if you want to improve the fighter, is define the fighter. All the other classes are pretty easy to define who and what they are- the one thing every member of the class has in common. And once you have the Trope that is the archetype, you can then move on to its Subversions.

The wizard is, as always, the scholarly genius who uses intellect to punch the fabric of reality in the face. From there, you can Subvert into 'good' vs 'evil' or 'old and wizened' vs 'fresh kid starting out' and... well, you can do wonderful things with it. But ultimately, if we didn't know what wizards were, they'd be useless to us.

The mechanics of the wizard are informed solely by the story of wizards.


Same with pretty much every other class. Rogues start with the Dashing Outlaw trope that made Robin Hood a classic, and move from there. Ranging from the criminals to the manipulative scum to Subversions like undercover law enforcement and investigators. There's a lot you can do here, but it all comes back to the Dashing Outlaw trope. And the mechanics are built to fit the design.


Monks are... well, let's be real, they're what happens when a bunch of geeks stay up all night watching a Bruce Lee marathon while getting high on Mountain Dew and weed. But the point is, they're still an archetype. The monk is a warrior-philosopher who seeks to perfect both mind and body. Everything is born in that statement, and grows from there- even if in a disappointing manner.


The fighter... isn't an archetype. It's a function. It's what you dip two levels into because you want bonus feats and maybe a proficiency. There is no story, there is no history, there is just... a placeholder until you can move on to something better and more interesting.

This class is somehow supposed to encapsulate everyone who picks up a sword and shield (even though that's a totally unoptimized build to begin with) and put the sharp end into other people- regardless of personality, motive, or methodology. That is not an archetype. Certainly not in a game where the only mechanics that actually matter revolve around killing everything.

And they're the only class guilty of this. Even classes like the "jack-of-all-trades" Bard and "there's a reason they're not adventurers" NPC classes get it right. Sure, the commoner may be mechanical garbage whose archetype is "useless peasant"- but they are still an archetype. An archetype with enough (sub)versions that every so often a DM will run an "all commoners" game which people actually join. Because even an archetype that basically reads "you suck" is better than no archetype at all.

To quote Carl Jung: "You are what you do, not what you say you'll do."

The part that matters here is "You are what you do." - and its reverse "You do what you are."

If you want to fix what's wrong with the fighter, first tell me what a fighter is. Give me a word or phrase that describes the class- and once you name it, you can name its variants, subversions, and alternative forms. What *are* fighters? What are they supposed to *do*?

When you can do that, we can make the mechanics.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TanaNari View Post
If you want to fix what's wrong with the fighter, first tell me what a fighter is. Give me a word or phrase that describes the class- and once you name it, you can name its variants, subversions, and alternative forms. What *are* fighters? What are they supposed to *do*?

When you can do that, we can make the mechanics.
Yeah, but it's simple. It's also going to ruffle quite a few feathers.

Fighters are the guys (and gals) that you want to be on your side when it comes to violence, because they are skilled in the areas before, during, and after the fight. They're also non-magical (but I didn't put that in the previous sentence because they aren't supposed to be just the best at killing and subduing among the martial classes which would be implied by saying "the martials you want on your side").

It's in the class name, you know. When I take a class named "fighter", I don't want to be told the Cleric can be better at fighting and has healing that I have no access to, and at dealing with the laypeople who consider my fighter a killer.

Check the class in Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and the class in DCC. Both get it, and in both of them it's an archetype, defined roughly as I'm defining it here.

That's still function, defining them solely by their combat proficiencies. As long as you keep focusing on that, you'll never find a way to answer the question.

What is their archetype? Not a stat block, not a mechanical role, but their purpose in a story. AKA- who are they?

Come on, dude, even Belkar could figure out the difference. Eventually.

http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0610.html

Quote:
Originally Posted by TanaNari View Post
That's still function, defining them solely by their combat proficiencies. As long as you keep focusing on that, you'll never find a way to answer the question.

What is their archetype? Not a stat block, not a mechanical role, but their purpose in a story. AKA- who are they?

Come on, dude, even Belkar could figure out the difference. Eventually.
Come on, are you really trying to insult my intelligence* or what? I know the difference. Doesn't mean I'm willing to do what you're asking me. Did you read my previous post?
In my previous post I just told you that the class is defined by its function in order to accommodate* multiple archetypes. I also gave you two very different archetypes (Zulu warrior and Bogatyr). Add a hoplite, a high-medieval man-at-arms, a pitfighter and a Mongol archer to the list, if you want, for more clarity. You still want them to be "the same archetype". But that's only possible if the archetype is extremely broad, to the point that, yes, it's defined by its function.
For the same reason that superhero games tend to have a Blast Power (fire/ice/electricity/whatever), and not Fire Blast, Ice Blast, Electric Blast and so on ad infinitum ad nauseum.

Basically, by asking me to take a class that's defined by its function, you're asking me to narrow it down to something it's not. Borrowing a term from an older edition of D&D, you're asking me to take the base class, pick a kit class, and define all members of the class as said kit.
Which means leaving all the other archetypes out. And also means we'd need basically endless kits.

Nope, not going to go that route. Or if you want another attempt, here it is.
The Fighter Is The Supreme Master Of All Martial Skills (though usually not all of them at once, Fighters tend to be at least competent in all of them - though it's not excluded, either - much like how MMA competitors can be rather specialised in one or two areas of their game, but all of the decent ones at least have an idea how to approach the other areas, and usually wouldn't mind using them when opportunity presents itself).
That's it. There can be no "reason you're doing that", because the reasons might well differ. There's no "approach", when some Fighters (at least in pop-culture) would challenge you to a fight by some kind of rules, like the above pitfighter, while others consider a surprise attack fair game, and train to deal with those, like everybody else on the expanded list.

*Yeah, the comparison with Belkar isn't flattering. I'll let that slide this time.
**Albeit the actual mechanics often don't help that.

Well, in a sense, the Fighter is the standard. He's the original core unit of the game from before the Fantasy supplement was added. He's Mr. Generic that all the other classes were a response to. You want a Knight? Well you used to make a fighter but then they made a separate Knight class. You want an archer? Well, originally you made a fighter, but then they made the ranger and archer ranger (1e). Wizard too, is a diversified template from the original 'mage'. But Mage doesn't exist anymore.

The Fighter exists as a generic non-archetype that is the base of many other classes. It should be the most versatile customizable class because it has no built in archetype. Unfortunately everything special it could have been had been shaved off into a specialized class. I think that what the fighter should be is a chassis which you can mount a huge variety of options and choices to. He should be the Swiss Army knife of combat. He should be feared and Full of options.

In a sense, that's why it's so hard to give a fighter class features, because anything not comprehensive would only limit what they could be.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Penchant View Post
Well, in a sense, the Fighter is the standard. He's the original core unit of the game from before the Fantasy supplement was added. He's Mr. Generic that all the other classes were a response to. You want a Knight? Well you used to make a fighter but then they made a separate Knight class. You want an archer? Well, originally you made a fighter, but then they made the ranger and archer ranger (1e). Wizard too, is a diversified template from the original 'mage'. But Mage doesn't exist anymore.

The Fighter exists as a generic non-archetype that is the base of many other classes. It should be the most versatile customizable class because it has no built in archetype. Unfortunately everything special it could have been had been shaved off into a specialized class. I think that what the fighter should be is a chassis which you can mount a huge variety of options and choices to. He should be the Swiss Army knife of combat. He should be feared and Full of options.

In a sense, that's why it's so hard to give a fighter class features, because anything not comprehensive would only limit what they could be.
Yes, and thank you. That's exactly what I was explaining, above.

And it's also why I like DCC's Mighty Deeds so much. Playing a former Centurion? Then your Mighty Deeds are to keep your allies in tighter formation, and give them AC bonuses. Playing a former pit-fighter who became a reaver? Then your Mighty Deed can be to inflict a lock on his weapon hand and give him penalties. Playing a fencer? Your Mighty Deed is to feint him and reduce his defence against your next attacks. Playing a barbarian? Then your Mighty Deed is to hit really hard (boring), or to scare them with your rage.
Playing something totally fantasy like a wizard-slaying warrior, and are facing a wizard? Then your Mighty Deed is to hit the wizard in such a way that he gets penalties on his magic rolls (magic in DCC isn't automatic). If the GM allows it, and I'd allow it for such a concept, why not?
All courtesy of one mechanic. And I don't remember anyone complaining that Warriors in DCC are underpowered, or not fun to play compared to casters.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Penchant View Post
He should be the Swiss Army knife of combat.
See, now *that* is an archetype you can work with.

The generalist warrior- not necessarily the best in any given area, but versatile enough to be valid in *every* area.

... Either that, or toss it in the trash because it has aged poorly and wasn't even well thought out when it was new. But admitting something's an effort in futility isn't the purpose of this thread, so we'll ignore that option for the time being...


Now, what tricks and features would one need to make our Ultimate Generalist Stabby-Guy?

Y'know... besides making Fighter Feats That Don't Suck For A Change. Because that's been homebrewed into existence a dozen times over by now. On the other hand... it's a pretty straightforward and obvious concept. They've got the Feat chassis and then some... so upgrading the nonmagical feats could be enough to put them back in the running as something other than the most boring class. Forget the lack of power- it's banality that ruins them.

Now, any other suggestions for how to make "swiss army fighter" work?

Oh, adding more skill points. That's something that just plagues all but specific skillmonkey builds.

Maybe give fighters something useful depending on which skills they take? Like a more extensive version of the "Knowledge Devotion" feat? Not really sure what some of those skills would be useful for... but it's a concept.

Fighters have a problem in that they're too often seen as the plain, vanilla, standard class. That's why they have no class features to speak of, and are ultimately quite boring.

I disagree that that's a fundamental difference between the classes, though.

If the Wizard is "the scholarly genius who uses intellect to punch the fabric of reality in the face"... then in other words, he's the guy who casts spells. That's a function. Mechanically, they're as bland as the Fighter except for the fact that their spells are usually cool and interesting where feats tend not to be, so much.

Meanwhile, being "the warrior" needn't only be a function. Look at Uhtred from The Last Kingdom, Lan from The Wheel of Time or Derfel from The Winter King. There are plenty of characters, like these, for whom "being a Fighter" is waaay more than just being able to hit someone with a sword - it's a way of life.

Yes, in a way, the Fighter is whatever's left over when you're not a Barbarian or a Ranger or whatever. Personally, though, I see it as someone who boils down to being a master of battle. Whether that's tactics, training, leadership, or just pure guts, the Fighter is someone who knows how to fight - and how to win. Forget story - there are whole sagas you can tell about Fighters, if you do it right.
Quote:
Originally Posted by AsenRG View Post
My point is that if you make martials rely on SLAs, you're basically admitting that everything hinges on magic, and it's what matters.
I think that this is actually a viable tack to take. However I also think there's a hell of a lot you can do without going down that road, and it's not a road which doesn't have its drawbacks. I mean, at that point you almost may as well lose the class entirely and only have spellcasters. "Fighters" can be L1-6 NPCs without magic, and they'll never match up to spellcasters who aren't super-low-levelled, but so what? But generally we want non-magic-using options too, and right now these don't even do the mundane stuff very well, let alone challenge the spellcasters.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheFred View Post
I disagree that that's a fundamental difference between the classes, though.

If the Wizard is "the scholarly genius who uses intellect to punch the fabric of reality in the face"... then in other words, he's the guy who casts spells. That's a function. Mechanically, they're as bland as the Fighter except for the fact that their spells are usually cool and interesting where feats tend not to be, so much.
Ah, but that's not true. Wizards are not "the guy who casts spells". Because there's also Sorcerers. And Clerics. And dozens other classes before even starting in on prestige options. I'm pretty sure there are more spellcaster base classes in the game than all the non-caster classes combined.

All of them share the mechanical role of "casts spells"- which is a boring mechanical function. It's *how* they do it, the *origins* and the *motives* and the *methods* that make each one a separate, unique thing. Even classes drawing from the exact same spell list can feel completely different and unique, yet still diverse enough to have hundreds of different ways of playing just that one class.

Usually. Not all casters are made equal, either. Without even counting the ones like Truenamer... some of the coolest fluff in the game, totally wasted because the writers couldn't do gradeschool level math.

Or look at our non-casters. Barbarians do just fine filling the role of savage warriors. Monks do... well, their *fluff* does great at being the warrior-philosopher. Then we got the holy-warrior Paladin. Rogues... aren't warriors at all... they're sneaky little bastards looking for the easiest way into someone's belongings. Or secrets. Or pants. Or ribcage. And the list goes on, but when it comes down to it, all these other classes have something that their members *share* which gives them an identity.

Fighters are... well, intrinsically they've got none of that. And the first step needs to be to change this.

Quote:
Meanwhile, being "the warrior" needn't only be a function. Look at Uhtred from The Last Kingdom, Lan from The Wheel of Time or Derfel from The Winter King. There are plenty of characters, like these, for whom "being a Fighter" is waaay more than just being able to hit someone with a sword - it's a way of life.
Okay, that's great, now take all these characters, strip away the flesh and polish up the bones. You now have the skeleton of a fighter. What does it look like?

Quote:
Yes, in a way, the Fighter is whatever's left over when you're not a Barbarian or a Ranger or whatever. Personally, though, I see it as someone who boils down to being a master of battle. Whether that's tactics, training, leadership, or just pure guts, the Fighter is someone who knows how to fight - and how to win. Forget story - there are whole sagas you can tell about Fighters, if you do it right.
Or any of the Tome of Battle classes. They got everything perfect in terms of creating, as you described it, "being a fighter is a way of life".







 

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