I'm interested in game design, so the frequent mentions of the Big Five and melee's ineffectiveness at higher levels has piqued my interest. I think I'll have to figure out an exact solution to this myself, but I'm wondering if people could shed more light on the nature of this. Why does it happen? I kind of get that melee damage doesn't build too much over time, but is there more to it than that?
Originally Posted by Templebuilder
Yes. A lot more. First I'm going to cover some side points.
1: It pleases me to see others are adopting my terminology for the problem.
2: Most melee classes don't have many abilities or much effectiveness. The ones that do have a fair number of abilities tend towards Epic Fail (see: Monk and Swashbuckler for the worst offenders, many others exist) far more often than usable class (ToB, Psychic Warrior, Duskblade...)
3: The Big Five are all at about the same power because they all steal each other's tricks. Further, the two non core members rank where they do entirely for this reason. As most of these tricks are core, this means that among many other things this fact puts a rocket through any theory of core = balanced, splat = imbalanced.
4: Knock? Seriously? What a waste of a spell slot or cash. Here is the real Knock problem:
A: Lock DCs are incredibly high. 150 gold for a DC 40 lock means there is absolutely no reason the best lock will not be on anything valuable... which is to say almost everything from level 3 on. Too bad you can't reliably pick it until 15-20... meaning it takes extreme coddling just to have ANY success rate. Also, Disable Device does let you open locks... at a much lower DC, and also does other stuff.
B: Knock bypasses this, and saves time, but still uses resources.
C: Adamantine bolt = pick any lock at will and without fail.
= No smart Rogue will bother with OL, no smart anyone will bother with Knock, and doors are not meant to be real obstacles so don't expect them to be.
5: Damage spells = fail. However just about any other type = win. If blasting is doing more damage than the beatstick, a complete character rebuild is in order. The issue here is:
A: Blasting spell damage is trivial at best.
B: Even doing more, or even several times more than this still doesn't result in good damage.
C: HP damage does absolutely nothing to impede combat effectiveness until it KOs or kills the target.
The first is a throwback to early editions, where 1d6 a level was actually pretty damn good. You could try jacking the damage up, but it won't do any good unless you massively improved it... not recommended.
The second is due to massively inflating HP. 1d6 a level gets you 70 at level 20 under the best case situation you aren't getting. You need to plow through 400, 500, or even more. Even if you do 200 a round, you still need about 3 rounds... which is 1-2 more than you'll get. Barring complete system revamps, this is unfixable.
The third has always been as it is, and fixing it is going to bone the beatsticks much harder than any monster, nerfing them further as a direct and immediate result.
6: The 'rockets' are currently the only things keeping the beatsticks alive. See, the beatsticks are currently serving in the role of Camp Follower. This means they follow the real characters around, only enter fights when the enemies have been crippled by said real characters, then slit their (the enemies) throats and steal the loot. They have no chance in a real fight. The rockets are what does that crippling. Which means you remove the rockets, and the beatsticks start dying all over the place to every auto attack, just like you'd expect when civilian opportunists enter a battlefield during war time. Those builds he mentioned due decent enough damage, but still have no chance against anything remotely resembling level appropriate, non crippled opposition.
Now, to wrap it all together.
As VV has already said, melee is a pure stat contest, and the enemies have better stats. So it's either casters win (cripple the enemy, so you can auto attack it to death) or you lose (rockets aren't used/don't work/whatever) and you die. In addition to the enemies having the advantage of numbers, options, or both depending on whether or not they are a beatstick or something better, the maneuvers you have don't do a whole lot even when they do work.
Your best one is trip to get +4 on follow up attacks and an AoO when they get up as a move action. If you could get this to work against another beatstick it's actually fairly decent as it means the only one attack = automatic irrelevancy rule of beatsticking is working in your favor for once. It doesn't do a whole lot against the other types of enemies, even when it works as they do their relevant things as a Standard, so you don't interfere with their Action Economy.
The second best is bull rushing ONLY if you are a Dungeoncrasher with Knockback. However this one, in addition to the whole big/four legs/high strength thing is negated by simply fighting outdoors or in an otherwise open area as there is nothing to knock them into. Also you pretty much have to pin them to a wall, or be flying (so you can knock them into the floor with your auto attacks) for this to be good. Otherwise you just hit them once, they fly into a wall, then they charge back at you... funny mental image, not that effect. If you don't have those things (which requires you to be a Goliath, Half Ogre, or anything else that's Large or has Powerful Build) this one is either useless (you push them back a few feet, whoop de do) or an active liability (pushing him into holes and such sounds good, until you remember this destroys the loot you were about to steal).
The rest are at best laughable. Disarm only works on beatstick humanoid NPCs, which aren't a threat anyways. The natural attacks you'd actually want to remove? Can't do jack.
Sunder destroys your own treasure. You are a highly treasure dependent class. Nuff said.
Grapple? Ignoring the bigger and stronger bit again, you can't do jack while grappling, but are wide open to other enemies attacking you. Meanwhile they have natural attacks and don't care much.
Charge is not considered a maneuver in my book. It either replaces your auto attacks if a Pouncer, or falls under the one attack = automatic irrelevancy clause if not.
For the record, the clause is that since you need a full attack to have any hope of dealing damage that matters, only getting to attack once means you're barely doing anything. And since you cannot move more than 5 feet and still full attack barring Pounce or Hustle or whatever... This means you're either more or less rooted in place, or are automatically irrelevant this round. Move faster than 0.568 MPH and you can outrun the beatstick all day. Your normal walking speed is four times faster than him. Walk briskly now indeed. Anyone that has any issue with Pounce, spell this out for them, then ask them to visualize someone calmly sauntering around the battlefield as if taking a morning stroll, yet auto negating the beatstick. He'll allow Pounce, if for no other reason than so he can use it on you every fight that features melee types to try to 'correct' your utter disrespect for them.