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

   
Quote:
Originally Posted by Penchant View Post
The problem isn't really in the mechanics. It's in the inherent design philosophy of the world. Magic classes are magical so they can potentially do anything. Martial classes aren't magical therefore they can't do anything that breaks fantasy physics. That inherent perception will always hinder what martial classes can do. Until you open up the idea that all martial classes can achieve mystical levels of skill, ther's going to be a cap there.

To me that was the big breakthrough with the ToB: it let martials have a little fantasy in their swordplay.
Well, the mechanics reflect that philosophical limitation on the "mundane", yes. There are a couple of specific ways that they do so, which can be addressed, even before recognizing that the mundane can still be fantastical without being magical.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Penchant View Post
The problem isn't really in the mechanics. It's in the inherent design philosophy of the world. Magic classes are magical so they can potentially do anything. Martial classes aren't magical therefore they can't do anything that breaks fantasy physics. That inherent perception will always hinder what martial classes can do. Until you open up the idea that all martial classes can achieve mystical levels of skill, ther's going to be a cap there.

To me that was the big breakthrough with the ToB: it let martials have a little fantasy in their swordplay.
Well, I'd disagree the problem isn't in the mechanics.
If the mechanics reflect the above paradigm, that's pointlessly nerfing several classes.
If the mechanics reflect the above paradigm, and make the fighters ultra-specialised, it's even worse, and it's what we had in 3.5 and its kin.
But yeah, it all begins in the mind.
As I like to put it, if we follow the laws of physics, the most magical class should be Rogue, because of Sleight of Hand skill. If some classes can break them, at some point the other classes should be able to do the same, too.

Exactly. You can't fix something if you don't root cause the issue.

So, that said, what about granting martial classes either SLA's from a catered spell list or even their own limited spell access? Key it off con. Just accept that it's a magical world and that even fighters can figure out some way to use it. The system is built around spells. So much of the books are dedicated to them, that it's clear. If you aren't using new mechanics like ToB did, then use the material that exist. A mid level fighter should be able to true strike on his opening hit. Let monks cast barkskin.

There's a balance to it, of course. But In addition to the feat ideas (which I support) I think it's the way to go.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Penchant View Post
The problem isn't really in the mechanics. It's in the inherent design philosophy of the world. Magic classes are magical so they can potentially do anything. Martial classes aren't magical therefore they can't do anything that breaks fantasy physics. That inherent perception will always hinder what martial classes can do. Until you open up the idea that all martial classes can achieve mystical levels of skill, ther's going to be a cap there.

To me that was the big breakthrough with the ToB: it let martials have a little fantasy in their swordplay.
I totally agree with almost all of this.

Skills are another area where the fighter falls way short. I house rule my near games to no longer have class skills for any of the classes and all classes get a minimum of 4sp per level (rogue still gets 8, etc). Not only do fighters lack in usefulness at higher levels their class skills are a joke for a professional soldier. More skill options allow for a more interesting character and a more useful one.

Iím not gonna get long winded here, I think Fred has made some good suggestions, as others have as well. I think at the very least if you are talking combat they should have damage reduction similar to, if not better, than the Barbarian. Offensively they should have abilities/knowledge of how to defeat damage reduction and other magical resistances/spells. And here is where we get into the stances that TOB introduced. In essence, the Warblade is better than a fighter in almost every way, so if you want to keep the fighter then you have to devise something unique to make it a desirable class instead of just deciding to go Warblade.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bandersnatch View Post
At the very least [the Pathfinder brawler is] the kind of concept you might want to look at, if you really want to redesign the class.
The Brawler seems to be a much better take on this kind of character, and I think I mentioned it above. It's designed as more of a Fighter/Monk/unarmed combatant, though there's a Fighter archetype which gets a lesser version of Martial Flexibility, IIRC. That's exactly the kind of thing I'm going for, but also I'd do it a little differently. Right now I think I prefer ToB-style per-encounter than per-day for martial abilities because neither makes a lot of sense but per-encounter is slightly less nonsensical and is more cinematic whilst still providing a limitation. Pathfinder also has the "many many nigh-useless feats" problem so actually, the ability can be of limited usefulness. Improving feat options and shortening trees as well makes it much nicer.
Quote:
Originally Posted by bandersnatch View Post
I created a little system in this thread, which never garnered any attention, at all unfortunately
I did see that as I recall, and to be honest I've nothing against the concept. However, a long list of extra powers for Fighters makes for a hell of a lot of reading. If I were writing 3.5 again from scratch, maybe I'd be looking to do something more like that. I'd also like Fighters to have more "tactical" abilities or party-buffing powers a la the Bard, Marshal, or ToB's White Raven manoeuvres. However, you're already going into a lot of detail if you start looking at individual feats or spells; if you add a whole other class of like things, that's a lot to grok. I'm trying to focus on most benefit from smallest number of changes here.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Penchant View Post
The problem isn't really in the mechanics. It's in the inherent design philosophy of the world. Magic classes are magical so they can potentially do anything. Martial classes aren't magical therefore they can't do anything that breaks fantasy physics. That inherent perception will always hinder what martial classes can do. Until you open up the idea that all martial classes can achieve mystical levels of skill, ther's going to be a cap there.
Even if you do, there will. By and large, the more "magical" a D&D class is, the more powerful it is (with the exception of the Monk). Psionics is a good example - it's more thematically limited than magic, which could be pretty much anything, focusing on telepathy/enchantments, divinations, telekinesis and some energy manipulation stuff. You don't get Invisibility or summon spells (beyond Astral Construct), or so on. Consequently, Psionics tends to be less powerful than magic (barring some action economy shenanigans), though more powerful than stuff like Binders and meldshapers which are magical but don't actually have spells, which in turn tend to be more powerful than e.g. Ninjas which aren't really magical but still get spammable invisibility and etherealness at high levels, which is already more than Fighters and Rogues get.

Thing is, if you watch pretty much any action film, you have martial characters doing stuff which isn't actually physically possible for real humans, but it's sort of adjacent to that. Leaping to incredible heights and kicking two people at once or jumping off tall buildings and surviving (actually real-life people have done pretty well here, but it's rare), whatever. You can extend this to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-style balancing on clouds or whatever - actually, wuxia in general blurs the line between the physical and supernatural quite a bit.

On the other hand, you're probably never going to have Fighters creating whole demiplanes with the power of their mind or teleporting to the other side of the world with a single step. Maybe you could - but actually I don't think you necessarily need to. Firstly, you can always bring the magical characters down a tad too. People can teleport, OK, but who says you have to be able to go anywhere in the universe, by L9, with a mere six seconds of spellcasting? And anyway, even if you never quite achieve parity, we can get a bit closer. We can pretty much maintain the illusion of a moderately-balanced game with 3.5 as it is anyway until the higher levels, which is far from satisfactory, but if you brought the T1s down to T2 and the T5s up to T3 or even high T4 (to use Tier terminology again...) you have a game which feels a lot tighter than when you have Fighters in the same party as Wizards as they are now.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Penchant View Post
To me that was the big breakthrough with the ToB: it let martials have a little fantasy in their swordplay.
Mmm... yes and no. Actually, the vast majority of ToB isn't magical or even really that fantastical. I'm OK with those fantastical options, but at that stage you're saying, we're not going to try and balance martials with magicals, we're going to make everyone magical. That's a viable approach and indeed might be the only approach which will ever give you a shot at real balance (since, as you say, there's just no way those two fundamentally different things will ever line up) but it's not necessarily what everyone wants all of the time (especially not at the lower levels) and also I think there's already stuff you can do before you go down that road. The Fighter isn't even good at being a Fighter, really, and the ToB classes can make much better, completely non-magical martial characters right out of the box, and people don't really complain about them being underpowered.

I think this is where being clear about your aims come in. You could say something like, OK, a L1-2 Fighter is basically a mook, but a L6 Fighter is a skilled warrior, a L10 Fighter is taking on whole gangs, leaping off flying mounts, slaying monsters, punching down doors, absorbing more hits to the face than Rocky and pushing the peak of suspension-of-disbelief-physical human capabilities, a L20 Fighter is like some kind of wuxia god, punching dragons in the face, cutting light with his sword, ignoring spells due to his sheer awesomeness, running around with spears sticking out of his limbs and the hands of a hundred dead orcs still clinging onto him (basically anything Tolkein and metal), etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Penchant View Post
Exactly. You can't fix something if you don't root cause the issue.

So, that said, what about granting martial classes either SLA's from a catered spell list or even their own limited spell access? Key it off con. Just accept that it's a magical world and that even fighters can figure out some way to use it. The system is built around spells. So much of the books are dedicated to them, that it's clear. If you aren't using new mechanics like ToB did, then use the material that exist. A mid level fighter should be able to true strike on his opening hit. Let monks cast barkskin.

There's a balance to it, of course. But In addition to the feat ideas (which I support) I think it's the way to go.
I'd rather use ToB-like abilities, or Mighty Deeds and the like, than SLAs, unless I want to play a gish. Besides, if we just add a restricted number of those, that would just go to show how many more abilities the martial classes get in comparison to those that add them freely to spellbooks.

I do not understand that second sentence. Can you rephrase?

My point is that SLAs don't always (usually don't, in fact) represent actual magical spells. They are just abilities that use the spell's rules for simplicity. If you don't allow psionics in your game, Illithids have an alternate list of SLA's that still replicate the psionic abilities that they should have. That doesn't mean that Illithids are spell casters.

I think SLA's are most appropriate, but you can give the martials ranger progression and bump ranger and paladin to bard progression.

SLAs =/= spells, but they are explicitly magical.

Yes. Just like Psionics are as given in the mind flayer entry. It's not spellcating, but is magical. Let fighters be magical too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Penchant View Post
I do not understand that second sentence. Can you rephrase?
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. Thus it's better to make actual martial mechanics.

Otherwise, you're still giving a large advantage to casters, because they can get all the SLAs by copying them in their spellbooks, and then add other spells that martials don't have access to. Again, if you're going to give them fewer options, they should at least be broader.
It could work, but you'd need to limit all the casters to gaining spells the way the Sorcerers learn them, a limited number per level.







 

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