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    Exclamation The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    The Fighter Problem
    (And How to Fix It)



    Forward
    Everyone knows that the Fighter sucks. It has no class features. Well, it has one, but that one feature is way, way worse than the class features that other warrior classes get, and let's not even compare it to spells. Why does the Fighter suck so much more than, say, the Barbarian, the Paladin, or the Ranger? Well, for one, it has no clear design goals beyond, "make this class straightforward and customizable." And yet, in it's attempts to be newb-friendly, the Fighter becomes one of the hardest classes to play well and most frustratingly difficult to "build." Dead levels is another big problem for the Fighter. The Barbarian is improving at every level (sometimes substantially, at least compared to the Fighter), but the Fighter has whole levels where his only benefit is +1 to BAB. The Fighter is so close to an NPC class that the Adept is more powerful than it is. Finally, the Ranger and the Paladin both have spells which automatically make them better than the Fighter. On top of that, they both have better saving throws than the Fighter making them tougher, and the Ranger has far better skills (and skill points per level).

    So, have I painted a clear picture yet? We haven't even begun to touch on the facts of D&D 3.5's game design which make playing warrior classes of any stripe a dubious proposition at best, yet you should still understand by now the poor position the much-maligned Fighter class finds itself in. The Fighter class is fixed nearly every day, and such fixes have been written by homebrewers ever since homebrew classes for 3rd edition first arrived on the scene over a decade ago. But it seems that no one knows how to get it right. That's pretty mind boggling to me. I have personally written 15+ "Fighter fixes" and I still haven't gotten it right.

    So, what I want to do is break the class down into constituent parts and evaluate them one by one, and then discuss the class in relation to the game rules at different level breakdowns. I hope I can illustrate some key problems, discuss some potential solutions, and identify areas of the game that also need adjusting if the Fighter, or indeed, any warrior, is to be enjoyable to play. Input from the rest of the forum will be, as always, invaluable.
    Last edited by Ziegander; 2013-03-17 at 03:18 AM.
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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    Chapter One: The Chassis

    The d20SRD provides us with information on the Fighter regarding Alignment rules, Hit Dice, Class Skills and Skill Points per Level, and Weapon and Armor Proficiency. This information, plus the Fighter's full Base Attack Bonus, as well as his saving throw bonuses, are what I consider to the be the Fighter's Chassis. This is the basic stuff that all classes are built upon. So let's look at each item in a bit more depth.

    Alignment
    We're told that Fighters can be of alignment and suffer no restrictions to their class features or gaining levels based on their alignment. That makes sense. Let's move on.

    Hit Die
    The Fighter has the second highest Hit Die in the game, being one step behind (and an average of 1 hit point behind per level) the Barbarian and sharing his spot on the totem pole with the Paladin. This would seem to be okay; however, there is an underlying problem here that is not the Fighter's fault.

    Hit points are a horrible metric for character toughness in D&D. I have played many games in which the Barbarian seems to be nowhere near as tough as the Wizard or Rogue. Once a character that relies only on hit points for defense is hit two or three times, they are dead or just about dead, and having no spells or other mechanics to recover this loss, they remain that way until they find potions or get magical aid. So, a character that is also supposed to be a tough, front-liner like the Fighter who also has no personal healing mechanics, and who is less "tough" than the Barbarian is actually even more likely to be killed (or at least unconscious) once he takes two or three hits.

    Class Skills
    Here we can see the Fighter's first big problem. If the Barbarian is supposed to be the brute that solves mysteries by smashing them and this class has more skills and more skill points per level than your class, then you are doing something wrong. Here is where, correct me if I am wrong, the notion of the Big Stupid Fighter first arises. We have a class that is less skilled at out-of-combat stuff than the brute core class and who is incapable even of spending his skill points to effectively Listen or Spot his enemies. The Fighter's class skill list is so insultingly bad that the Commoner has a better skill list.

    Just about everyone can agree that the Fighter needs a better skill list and more skill points per level. What many people do not agree on is, well, just how much better that skill list should be and just how many more skill points should he get? I posit that skills are where much of the bread-and-butter of mundane utility and out-of-combat gameplay mechanics are found, and being without spellcasting, mundane classes like the Fighter ought to have a wide variety of skills to utilize. The Barbarian already has four skill points per level with a skill list that could be better, but is reasonable, so why shouldn't the Fighter have an even better skill list with even more skill points per level. If the Ranger can do it, then so can the Fighter, that's what I say. Hell, the Ranger has spells, if anything, the Fighter deserves those extra skill points even more than the Ranger does. While we're at it, let's bump the Monk to 6 skill points per level, and the Paladin up to 4 skill points per level.

    Weapon and Armor Proficiency
    Okay, so this is the cream of the crop. A Fighter is proficient with every useful, non-exotic piece of equipment out there (and even all of the non-useful ones). He even gets Tower Shield proficiency, which is a separate feat expense for everyone else. Now, no one talks about this, but this part of the Chassis is kind of a huge deal. It's not treated like one, but it is these proficiencies just as much as the Bonus Feats at 1st and 2nd level, that make the Fighter such a dip class. Wizards and similar classes come over for a one-level dip to get all the proficiencies and then dive into Prestige Classes like Eldritch Knight or Abjurant Champion.

    Proficiency with all martial weapons is kind of awesome, at least at low-level, and it fuels those dips. I can't believe I'm saying this, but it's almost too good. You can kill stuff a lot more efficiently with a decent attack bonus and a sharp stick than you can with most spells at levels 1-2. Proficiency with all armors is less awesome because at low levels the light armor is the cheap stuff that you can afford, and at mid-to-high levels medium and heavy armor suck so much that you pretty much still use light armor (even if you're using that really expensive Feycraft Mithril Full Plate stuff). Proficiency with shields is kind of nice at low levels because it helps your AC, but you stop caring once you hit mid levels, because shields never really get any better without prohibitively costly expenditures, not only of character wealth, but of finite character resources.

    Base Character Bonuses
    The Fighter has full base attack bonus, which thankfully, at least allows him to hit stuff with his weapons (oh, except that it becomes less useful at higher levels, imagine that), and he has a "good" Fortitude save which is likely to be bolstered by a decent Constitution modifier. He has a weak Reflex save which means he has trouble against traps and with dodging area effects. He also has a weak Will save which puts him in trouble against Fear and other mind-affecting abilities, such as scores of spells and (Sp) and (Su) abilities possessed by the monsters he is expected to, well, fight.

    Now, full base attack bonus is a given, unfortunately, as I mentioned above, once you start to run into concealment miss chances (which could be as early as 1st level if you fight a lot in the dark), especially those that are generated by spells and similar abilities, than you could have all the attack bonus in the world and it wouldn't matter.

    Furthermore, a Fighter's saving throws, for the most part, suck. Yes, it is nice that you are above average at resisting poison, which can be quite nasty to fall prey to, but you will take lots of damage from dragon's breath and other area effects, and don't expect to be passing a Will save any time soon what with having no incentive to have more than a penalty as your Wisdom modifier. I agree with those that suggest that a Fighter needs to have all good saves, just like the Monk. A Fighter is going to have a solid Constitution, and probably a pretty good Dexterity. However, he is not going to have a good Wisdom score, and he also has no class features that provide him with a boost to saving throws unlike, say, a Paladin (who adds an important ability modifier to all saves). Given that the Fighter is not meant to be a brute, like the Barbarian is, it makes sense to me that his saving throws reflect more diligent training to avoid damage (a good Reflex save) and a more disciplined mind (a good Will save). Even with such a boon, the Fighter's middle-of-the-pack Dexterity (unless he's an archer) guarantees he still fails some crucial Reflex saves, and his garbage Wisdom guarantees that he still gets mind-controlled a lot—except now it won't happen every time.
    Last edited by Ziegander; 2013-03-19 at 10:24 PM.
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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    Chapter Two: Class Features

    Or rather, lack thereof. Bonus Feats are the Fighter's only class features and they have been found, time and time again, to be sorely lacking. Here's what the d20SRD has to say on the matter:

    Quote Originally Posted by d20SRD
    Bonus Feats
    At 1st level, a fighter gets a bonus combat-oriented feat in addition to the feat that any 1st-level character gets and the bonus feat granted to a human character. The fighter gains an additional bonus feat at 2nd level and every two fighter levels thereafter (4th, 6th, 8th, 10th, 12th, 14th, 16th, 18th, and 20th). These bonus feats must be drawn from the feats noted as fighter bonus feats. A fighter must still meet all prerequisites for a bonus feat, including ability score and base attack bonus minimums.

    These bonus feats are in addition to the feat that a character of any class gets from advancing levels. A fighter is not limited to the list of fighter bonus feats when choosing these feats.
    So, while there are other classes that get Bonus Feats, and while other combat-oriented characters are perfectly capable of taking these same feats, the Fighter gets many more of them than any other class—almost double the number that characters without Bonus Feats get and more than double the number of Bonus Feats of any other base class.

    It is these Bonus Feats that are meant to give the Fighter unparalleled versatility as well as the means to stand up to the Barbarian in terms of damage per round. One might think that they were also meant to showcase the Fighter's skill with arms and offer a Fighter abilities that no other class could match, but this does not appear to have been a concern for the designers.

    In a side-by-side comparison to the Barbarian, we can determine that by roughly 4th level and onward, a Core Fighter is able to compete favorably with a Core Barbarian in terms of strictly damage per round. By then, the Barbarian's got +10 to speed, Rage 2/day, Uncanny Dodge, and the piddling Trap Sense +1 (hey, at least it's something). On the other hand, the Fighter has Weapon Focus, Combat Reflexes, and Weapon Specialization. We won't take into account feats gained by character levels because they could both have the same ones (and are likely to).

    So, both fight with a Masterwork Greatsword and both have the following ability scores: Str 18, Dex 14, Con 16, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 8. They both wear a Breastplate. This gives each combatant an attack bonus of +9 and an AC of 17 before class features. The Barbarian rages, boosting his Str to 22 and his Con to 20, but reducing his AC to 15. His attack bonus increases to +11 and he deals 2d6 + 9 with each successful attack. The Fighter just fights. Weapon Focus brings his attack bonus to +10 and Weapon Specialization brings his damage to 2d6 + 8. However, at this level the Barbarian can only effectively keep this up for two encounters per day. Assuming the four encounter workday, half of the time the Barbarian's attack bonus is only +9 and his damage is only 2d6+6, so things seem to break even.

    By 12th level, a Fighter can have Greater Weapon Focus and Greater Weapon Specialization (along with three other feats). The Barbarian on the other hand has Greater Rage 4/day. Giving each of them a +3 Greatsword, and Str scores of 25 this comes out to attack bonuses of +24 (Barbarian, assuming Rage in every encounter) vs +24 (Fighter), and damage of 2d6 + 16 (Barbarian) vs 2d6 + 14 (Fighter).

    The Fighter is keeping up, and his other three feats can help him to close the gap, but the Barbarian has about 12 more hit points, better skills and more of them, Improved Uncanny Dodge (which helps to offset the AC penalty from Rage), Trap Sense +4, and of course Damage Reduction 2/— (which may not seem like anything, but it's the best kind of DR and it's way more than what the Fighter's got). So, the Barbarian's got the Fighter beat in both raw offense and raw defense, and it is only through Bonus Feats, which he has chewed through many of already just to compete, that the Fighter has any chance of catching up in one or the other of those. Out of combat, the Barbarian still has the better skill set.

    The focus of most "Fighter fixes" is on eliminating the Fighter's dead levels and adding real, substantial class features to the class table aside from Bonus Feats. Many times this comes in the form of menus of options such as the Art of Battle menu of Szatany's Ultimate Fighter or the Combat Training menu of my own Legacy Fighter. I have come to realize that such ability menus are silly because they serve the same function as designing lots of Fighter-Only feats and then giving the Fighter a bonus feat every level. It doesn't really solve the problems with the Fighter, even if it does help a little.

    Other times, people attempt to add things like Weapon Training +N and Armor Training +N to the dead levels (Pathfinder did, for example) which actually, strangely, put the Fighter's offensive and defensive numbers far above that which even a Raging Barbarian can match. These types of abilities are also not helpful in that the bonuses are unnecessary and do not offer the Fighter anything more than raw power.

    Finally writers decided to give the Fighter fixed class features of its own, abilities that attempted to reflect a sophisticated and disciplined approach to combat befitting a trained warrior. Abilities which would be useful across the board in as many diverse combat encounters as possible. Abilities like Combat Focus and Foil Action of the Tome Fighter, Problem Solver of my "15th Fighter Fix," or Veteran of a Thousand Battles from Grod's latest Fighter. These are all cool features, but many reviewers have criticized abilities such as these as "forcing" the Fighter into a single perceived "role" or "concept," especially when the reviewer doesn't agree with that role, and that, in my own opinion, is a fair assessment.

    At the heart of the Fighter class is the original design intention of the writers of 3rd Edition: customization and ease of play. The Fighter is the everyman hero that the player is then able to shape into whatever warrior-type his or her little heart desires. What then is to be done when Bonus Feats, Fighter Menus, Weapon/Armor Training, and even Fixed Class Features™ are found to be wanting by the majority of reviews?
    Last edited by Ziegander; 2013-03-19 at 10:26 PM.
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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    Chapter 3: Zero to Hero, a Level by Level Analysis


    Levels 1-2
    In the early levels, a Fighter will get by on his ability to survive the first successful attack targeting him in the day, his marginally better armor class, and his superior weapons which give him ranged attacks better than anything the Wizard has and melee attacks that can one-shot just about anything that's level-appropriate.

    It is at these levels that you won't really notice a Fighter's incompetence. You get a class feature at both levels and even though you have piss-poor skill points, you should still be pretty good at movement stuff like Climb, Jump, and Swim. In a typical campaign, you won't need to do anything fancy to survive to 3rd level.

    Do note, however, that you won't feel particularly powerful even at these first two levels. Sure, you can take a hit and not die, but you can only do that once a week or so. Realistic? Maybe. Fun? Well, your mileage may vary. These are the "novice" levels, where you don't really feel like a fully fledged character yet. There isn't much of a backstory you can write for yourself, especially as a Fighter, that will compare very accurately to the things you are able to do in-game. To put this to a comic-book analogy, you are not even as competent as Robin the Boy Wonder, you are Kick-Ass more closely. You know what you want to be, but you're really not good at it yet.


    Levels 3-4
    Compared to your rival, the Barbarian, you aren't missing out on much; however compared to a lot of other classes, and, more importantly, compared to the monsters you're regularly facing, it as at this point that you may start to realize something is amiss. Rogues likely outpace your melee damage while Spellcasters start to be able to match your melee damage with ranged attacks. Paladins and Rangers just picked up a couple spells per day which, at the very least, allows them to heal themselves a bit. The Fighter... well, at 3rd level he doesn't really improve at all. At 4th he picks up another bonus feat. Depending on the build, this feat either brings a new minor ability to the table or it does something virtually useless and is taken to serve as fuel for prerequisites of a better feat down the road.

    At this point the Fighter could be started on the path of a Chain Tripper (Exotic Weapon Proficiency, Combat Expertise, Improved Trip, Knock-Down, and Combat Reflexes), or a Power Charger (Jotunbrud, Power Attack, Dungeoncrasher ACF, Improved Bull Rush, and Knockback), but even as effective as such a path may feel the one-trick reputation of the Fighter will be very evident. Straying from one of these "trick" paths will undoubtedly result in much frustration and bitter realization that the Fighter just doesn't cut it.

    At these levels you're expected to face down Ankhegs (nasty, acid-biting, burrowing things), Aranea (magical, poisonous spiders), Barghests (gnarly wolf-goblin demons that are better than you in virtually every way), Cockatrices (chickens that can kill you instantly), Gelatinous Cubes (I hope you have a ranged weapon...), a Warband of Kobolds, a Swarm of Darkmantles, a dozen Zombies, and many other interesting and dangerous encounters which will serve to remind you that you are falling behind in damage output and toughness. The more varied these encounters are the more you will begin to notice how little versatility you have.

    Out of combat, Rangers and Rogues, even Barbarians are more capable at more activities than you are. Rangers can sneak with the best, Track creatures, and detect ambushes. Rogues fast-talk townspeople and Hobgoblins alike, find and disable traps, and open locked doors. Spell casters are another breed entirely. A single caster is able to replicate most of the above with spells, and between both a Cleric and a Wizard they can do it all and then some. The Fighter is lucky if he is still able to Climb, Jump, and Swim with any reasonable competitiveness. Most have to pick two of those and ignore the other.


    Levels 5-6
    These are the levels where the concept of mundanity really begins to go out the window. Let's look at some skill calculations. The world's longest Jump record stands at just under 30ft. In order to replicate that, I'd say we want a character that can hit that on a roll of 15 (world records aren't achieved by Take 10 results). So we need a Jump skill modifier of +15 or more by 5th or 6th level. I'd say that's not so difficult. Assuming Str 14 (+2), Speed 30 (+0), Jump 8 ranks (+8), Tumble 5 ranks (+2), Skill Focus (Jump) (+3) we're at +15 already. Getting an additional +5 (or more) isn't hard at all. The Run feat, if we were so inclined, offers a further +4 bonus after a running start (something we get when we're going for the real-life long jump record). The Acrobatics feat will give us another +2. The Quick trait would increase our speed by 10ft, offering a further +4 bonus after a running start. Masterwork Shoes might bring us a further +2 bonus if the DM is feeling generous. Since we're trying to emulate the real world, using magic would be out of place, but even without it it's easily possible to get up to and higher than +21 to our check (Human character, after all) by 5th level. Earlier than that even. World record achieved.

    For another illustration, let's look at the Knowledge skill, specifically we'll call it Knowledge (Physics). Now, let's talk about a real world genius, with Int 18, with 8 ranks and the Skill Focus feat. That's a +15 modifier right there. With no other bonuses, our genius can Take 10 to casually answer DC 25 questions, which, according to the d20SRD, are among the toughest questions within the field, and 30% of the time our genius will know the answer to the toughest physics questions known to man (DC 30). Albert Einstein did all of his thinking cloistered away from the rest of the world, without special equipment or scientific journals. He failed out of schooling and had very little contact with intellectual colleagues. But let's imagine a different scenario. By 3rd level, he's still got two more feats to play with. With the Education and Master of Knowledge feats he'll get a further +3 to Knowledge (Physics), with the help of a fellow physicist he'll get a further +2, and, depending on the quality of the item, he can have Masterwork Tools to grant a +2 bonus or a "Tome of Worldly Memory" for a +5 bonus 3/day (albeit magical, I would argue that having access to well-stocked libraries and scientific journals could offer him a similar bonus). At 5th level, that'll get him anywhere from a +22 to +25 modifier, enabling him to casually answer DC 30 questions, but also to tread into the DC 40 realm, positing theories and discovering truths about things so esoteric no one has ever considered them before. With these bonuses he could've been as low as 3rd level to accomplish all of the things he did in his lifetime.

    Of course, all of the above requires strict dedication and absolute focus. But, extending the analogy, so does being a Fighter. So, at these levels the Fighter, with his strict focus, should be meeting and even starting to exceed what is possible for a real life person. Assuming Con 12 and average hit points, at 5th level, the Fighter has 36 hp, enough to survive a 10-story fall a little over 50% of the time, and though he's no world record setter, he can routinely make 20ft long jumps. In his area of focus, fighting, one that would be a bit nebulous to compare to the real world (but I will try anyway), he can be expected to, with some difficulty, emerge victorious against such true-to-life encounters as an African Lion (CR 3), a Grizzly Bear (CR 4), pair of Gorillas (CR 3), a pack of Wolves (CR 3-5), and even a small squad of lesser warriors (12 1st level Human Warriors, CR 5), and he can do this armed with a chain shirt, a longbow, and a sword. Of course, he isn't expected to do all of this in one day, but over the course of a week? Potentially. Over the course of a month of adventuring? Definitely. That's impressive.

    Now, what's more impressive is what the spellcasters are getting up to. Spells like Animate Dead, Create Food and Water, Water Walk, Tongues, Fly, and Gaseous Form are starting to show up. Miracles made real. Paradigms of war forever altered. As low as 5th level, Clerics are able to emulate gods of real world religions. You may feel like you're capabilities are rising fast, but to put things into perspective, one of the members of the party is Jesus Christ. As a Fighter, you are more akin to a sort of Steve Irwin: Crocodile Puncher or, if you're really lucky, an early-career Hawkeye.

    Since, we've established that 5th level, or lower, is where the limits of real-world characters are met and sometimes exceeded, this should become a cut-off point. After 5th level, mundane characters should start to become capable of deeds that no one in the real world could possibly match. Unfortunately for the Fighter (and many of his mundane pals), he never really manages it. Oh, sure, his "fighting skill" increases to the point that he can demonstrably survive more damage than any real person could possibly hope to, and he can successfully defeat creatures that would kill even the most skilled and stern veteran of our world, but he does so, not because he gains extraordinary abilities, but because the basic numbers that even an NPC commoner gets, continue to increase to values that automatically put him a cut above real life people.


    Levels 7+
    At these levels we're talking about superhumans. Between levels 7 and 10 or so, we're still talking about characters that, while they do things that no human in the real world could ever possibly do, they do things that seem possible. Like, for example, Batman. Bruce Wayne, regardless of whatever they tell you in the comics, has superpowers. No real life human being can be a skilled surgeon + Olympic athlete + world-class acrobat + master of all martial arts + master detective + master tactician + master of sneaking and all black ops. Oh, and he also, apparently, has the strongest will of any sentient creature in the universe. If that's not a superpower, I don't know what qualifies these days. So, yeah, at these levels, you should be able to expect your character to play like Batman. But, unless you're a Wizard (or an Archivist maybe), it isn't going to. If you are a Wizard, or another Tier 1 spellcaster, then you can expect to play the game like a deity. Which is just inappropriate for this early in the game, right?

    At these levels, you will begin to notice the cost of upkeeping and upgrading magical items. Now, as a spellcaster, this isn't likely to hurt you much. You have one, maybe two items that you really need to worry about. But as a warrior, you have your primary stat booster that you need to upgrade, you have your weapon that you need to upgrade (and if you want to have options you'll want at least one secondary weapon which must be upgraded too), you have your armor that you should upgrade, you have AC boosters that you need to upgrade, save boosters that you need to upgrade, etc, etc, and so forth. Why don't casters need this stuff? Why, they have spells, of course. Spells with durations of at least 7+ minutes, and often 7+ hours. Before being Extended or Persisted, of course. They can cover their bases with spells that are generally lower level than the spells they need to win encounters with, and they have so many spells per day that they can afford to waste them on stuff like this.

    As a warrior, if you weren't finding yourself physically outclassed by your enemies at lower levels, you will definitely see it happening now. Creatures are going to be bigger than you, stronger than you, faster than you, and tougher than you. Often all at once. Even when your enemies are not, they are going to have modes of movement that make them impossible for you to fight (what does a warrior do against a burrowing creature like the Bulette? gets devoured, that's what), or spells/SLAs that make them superior to you in ways you can't even hope to match.

    But, even though all warriors suffer from the above problems, Fighters get hurt possibly the worst of all. At these levels, there are very very few feats that, as a Fighter, you are able to take that you couldn't take when you were level 1-5. What that means is, when you get your class feature at 14th level, when other classes are getting a class feature appropriate in power for 14th level (or at least supposedly), you are getting a class feature that was appropriate (again, supposedly) for 1st thru 5th level. Ouch. How can you be expected to defend yourself against the above threats, let alone even play the game at this level, with options that were, maybe, appropriate for a character half your level? None of your feats scale, so you don't get any help in that way.

    By the time you reach 11th level, things have gotten entirely out of hand. Casters are throwing around so many powerful spells each day, spells that offer them abilities that you can't even come close to contending with, spells like Contingency, Flesh to Stone, Forbiddance, Planar Binding, Raise Dead, and Teleport. Things that thoroughly change the manner in which the game is played, and control, not only the enemies, but the variables under which conflict even takes place. And we're only halfway through playing, as far as the designers of D&D are concerned. When you play a Fighter, especially a core Fighter, you are playing a class that was only ever designed to 4th level, at maximum, while there are 16 other levels to the game that your fellow teammates, but also the enemies you will face, are experiencing to the fullest. At these levels you increasingly sit on the sidelines, unable to contribute to an ever-evolving state of gameplay and ever-increasing power level.

    At levels 11+ you should be playing like a super superhuman, someone that literally lives in such a way that is impossible for a normal human being. Someone like... Mr. Fantastic, Spider-Man, or Wolverine. You are skilled at a level that is implausible, but you also have innate attributes that are clearly, massively beyond the possible threshold of normal human ability.

    At levels 16+ you should be akin to a god. Hercules, Thor, etc, should be fitting character concepts for 16th+ warrior-type characters, but the game doesn't support that in the slightest. Casters, on the other hand, have been playing at this level for over half the game already.

    Last edited by Ziegander; 2013-03-29 at 09:52 PM.
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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    Conclusion


    Let's restate the problems we've exposed:


    1) The Fighter is built as simple and easy to play, but it showcases Ivory Tower Game Design* and punishes less-than-stellar player choices. It punishes them hard.

    *I would provide a contextual hyperlink, but Monte Cook has removed the controversial essay from his website.

    2) The Fighter is full of dead levels. More of them than any other Core class (yes, I include Cleric, Wizard, and Sorcerer because they always get more spells per day). When other classes are improving every level (or at least most levels), the Fighter has many levels where he gets nothing but +1 to attack rolls.

    3) Things like a good HD (a very poor measure of toughness) and good BAB (a meager benefit compared to size categories, raw strength, and of course spellcasting) were placed, by the game designers, on equal footing with stuff like... size categories, raw strength, and spellcasting. This means that the Fighter is weaker than half of the game by design (and possibly not by accident).

    4) The Fighter has the worst number of skill points per level with the most egregiously poor skill list in the game. This has given him the stereotype of the Big Stupid Fighter.

    5) Weapon and armor proficiencies barely matter beyond 2nd level, and having the dubious benefit of proficiency with medium or heavy armors turns out to be simply a waste of time and money. All anyone needs or, optimally, wants is proficiency with light armor and maybe with shields.

    6) The Fighter's saves are, on the whole, poor. This coupled with his only defense being hit points means that his survivability is drastically low.

    7) Bonus Feats are garbage. I don't think I need to elaborate.

    8) At levels 1-2, when the Fighter is at his strongest and most capable, his most impressive skills (and possibly his only ones) are that he can kill enemies in one hit and, sometimes, not get killed by his enemies in one hit. At any higher levels, the Fighter becomes sorely outclassed in terms of offense and defense and versatility and utility, not only by his party mates, but by most, if not all, level-appropriate enemies he faces.

    9) The Fighter never stops being "ordinary." He barely even qualifies as "extraordinary." Meanwhile, his teammates, as early as 5th level, are mirroring real world deities.

    10) The concept of wealth-by-level hurts a warrior more than it hurts the already vastly more powerful spellcasting characters.

    11) Finally, as a Fighter gains levels, he eventually realizes that there is no end-game content for him. There's barely even any mid-game content and most of what's there is irrelevant or undesirable. There is no game content in the 7+ level range that will help him to compete with the massive advantages his enemies have over him.

    Will you look at that. 11 main problems, one for every bonus feat the Fighter has... Anyway, there are two courses of action that I see. Either the entire game needs fixed to meet the standards of the Fighter class, OR the Fighter class needs to be scrapped and fully re-realized with all new mechanics and a keen eye on the mechanical implications built into d20 as a whole. Well, let's explore those courses, shall we?

    Rewriting Reality
    What parts of d20 can we work on to make the Fighter more viable than it currently is? Well, work could be done to help make a good Hit Dice and a good Base Attack value more valuable, certainly. Weapons and armor (and proficiency in them) could be made to have more impact on the game into the mid and high levels. Monster design and expectations could be heavily tweaked. "Tiers" of gameplay (no, not JaronK's Tiers) could be better baked into the system to reinforce the idea of growing beyond human limits into superhuman, legendary, and godlike status by the time you've reached the endgame. Finally, wealth by level could be scrapped entire or at the very least thoroughly re-examined and redefined to the point the repercussions would be felt throughout all items and item effects.

    Can all of that be done? Sure. Let's take HD, for example. So, we want to make a bigger HD more important. First, let's add a self-heal mechanism to the game. Something maybe like 5th Edition's take on it, where after a short rest you may spend a Hit Dice to regain hit points. Characters with bigger HD regain more hit points. Okay, now let's take it a step further. All healing restores hit points to a character in dice sizes equal to the character's Hit Dice. So, a hypothetical Cure Light Wounds restores 1 HD + 1/caster level (max +5) hit points to a target creature. Used on the Fighter that's 1d10+X, but used on the Wizard it's only 1d4+X. Not mind-blowingly awesome, but an improvement nonetheless. There are lots of other ways to improve a larger HD. Now, how about making BAB matter more? Well, lots of people have gone about this in different ways. I have tied maneuvers/stances to it in a past project. Frank & K's Tomes introduced a new mechanic called "The Edge." There are other things that can be done to improve the quality of Base Attack Bonus. My favored solution? Instead of attempting to add lots of tidbits to the game to make BAB as important as it seems to be, instead, stop taking it so seriously and rework the game so that having a good BAB isn't considered über powerful.

    One of the harder parts of the d20 game to work on is the concept of wealth-by-level. Sure, it can be scrapped entirely, but then something must take it's place. I have worked on many a pipedream of game design in the past, and unfortunately, I have not come across a system, or worked to design one, that was able to deliver a mechanic that, in this area, did not sacrifice realism for game balance (or vice versa) to varying degrees but often in major ways. My favored solution is have the "economy" of the default game setting be based on coins and consumable goods (magic or not). The permanent magic items are either priceless artifacts or created by player characters and, thus, not likely to be sold. I would ditch all notion that any price be attached to a Gauntlet of Ogre Power such that a player could expect to walk into any town and buy or sell one for the same price anywhere on earth. Ditch that and you're on your way to a less restrictive, less-punishing character wealth system already and you haven't even written anything, instead you've omitted rules.

    The Warblade Reloaded
    The Warblade was presented in the Tome of Battle, which, though it has received a noticeable amount of flak, is still considered one of the most successful and well-received books published for D&D 3rd Edition. What made the book, and the Warblade in particular, was that it not only made the concept of the warrior (and perhaps more importantly, the mundane warrior) cool but it made it effective. These classes, these warriors, using the new rules outlined in the manual, could play the game, at all levels, and did not feel like useless weaklings when pit against mid to high level monsters. The Warblade is considered by many, though probably not most 3rd Edition players, to be the "official unofficial Fighter fix," for the edition, and in a lot of ways this is not far off. Much of the flavor of the class is close or identical, and many of the Warblade's class features cross-reference the Fighter. But, as much as the Warblade has going for it over the Fighter in terms of skill and raw power it still fails to replace the Fighter for many groups and for many varying reasons.

    What if we could unite the fans under the Warblade with a few tweaks? What if, with a new but similar design, we could build a better Warblade? But we won't call it the Warblade. We'll just call it what it is. It's the Unofficial Official Fighter fix, and it embraces the path of the Warblade, but marches to the beat of its own drum. Eventually, the design goes in a different direction entirely. Can we create a class that uses the best concepts of Tome of Battle's design and yet retains what we all love about the Fighter, that impossible dream of satisfying customization coupled with ease of play? I think we can.

    First we need to tweak the fluff of the class and its abilities and then we tackle the presentation. Ditch the eastern mythology and the blade magic stuff and return to the more grounded and gritty roots of the soldier of fortune. Replace maneuvers and stances with a set of mechanics that offers a similar range of raw power but with a presentation that doesn't make people think, "ew, you got spells in my Fighter." Finally, give the class a wider, more readily acceptable range in power levels. Making it capable of playing Tier 4 to Tier 2 would go a long way. Making it capable of replicating a wider variety of character archetypes (ranged jumps out, and screams, in particular) would take it another step forward.

    So, how do we replace maneuvers and stances and yet offer a similar level of power? I have an elegant solution that not only provides a wider final range of power level, but also doesn't look anything like spells. All that is needed is something called the Arts of War, a few words that show up on the 1st level of the class features table. That's the most noticeable change to the Fighter class entry at first glance. This feature gives the Fighter a pool of Stamina Points (or SP) at the start of each day equal to 3 + his Con modifier which he may spend to reroll an attack roll or a saving throw made during combat. He may recover these points with a short rest (5 minutes or longer). Now, more interestingly, he also learns maneuvers and stances, which have Fighter feats as prerequisites. Maneuvers cost 1 SP each to use and are one-shot effects, but stances cost nothing and are passive benefits of which the Fighter may only benefit from one at a time. They do not have levels like spells do, but some are more powerful than others depending on what feats they use as prerequisites and how many feats are needed as prerequisites. Some of the most powerful maneuvers and stances require a specific Fighter level before they can be learned. Thoughts?
    Last edited by Ziegander; 2013-03-24 at 12:11 AM.
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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    Well, you have certainly summarized the issues with the fighter.

    I actually like the idea of being able to select class features. Now, people have said in the past that "feats can never be as good as class features." Of course, this is rather absurd, because aside from the name, you can make feats which are identical to class features (e.g. a series of feats, "wizard casting [level number]", which require you to have the given level in fighter, and grant all the spellcasting powers of the wizard for that level. There, the fighter now has (almost) all the toys the wizard has, assuming he has enough feats, which he doesn't.)

    The problem enters when the fighter only gets a class feature every other level, and those class features are not as powerful as other classes'. The reason is because other classes gets feats, and they are not suppose to be as powerful as class features. But there is an easy solution: create fighter-bonus-feats which require at least X levels in fighter, and make it as powerful as a level X feature. Then give fighters a bonus feat EVERY level. Now if you branch out into prestige classes, you will be missing class features (which happen to be called feats). If you like, rename "fighter bonus feats" "alternate fighter class features," and add a rule that a fighter can take a lower level ACF as a "normal" feat.

    Now, the hard part is the task of creating powerful new fighter feats alternate class features.

    EDIT: I want it on the record that when I wrote this, only the first post of this thread contained more than the phrase "reserved."
    Last edited by 137ben; 2013-03-17 at 02:43 PM.

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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    Quote Originally Posted by 137ben View Post
    I actually like the idea of being able to select class features.
    Of course you do, so do I. So does probably everyone that's ever enjoyed playing a Fighter, even if only for a short time.

    The problem enters when the fighter only gets a class feature every other level, and those class features are not as powerful as other classes'. The reason is because other classes gets feats, and they are not suppose to be as powerful as class features.
    Right. A Fighter's feats are not as powerful as another class' class features, yet the Fighter gets fewer of these feats than other classes get class features. Yikes. Talk about the short end of the stick.

    But there is an easy solution: create fighter-bonus-feats which require at least X levels in fighter, and make it as powerful as a level X feature. Then give fighters a bonus feat EVERY level.
    There are many issues still with such a solution. To name a couple off the top of my head: 1) Such a Fighter would still only be good at combat stuff; and 2) The resultant class would still be difficult to play well and frustratingly punishing to poorly-made and/or non-synergistic choices.

    If you like, rename "fighter bonus feats" "alternate fighter class features," and add a rule that a fighter can take a lower level ACF as a "normal" feat.

    Now, the hard part is the task of creating powerful new fighter feats alternate class features.
    I feel like this is much like the "ability menus" I mentioned above, which is just calling Fighter-Only feats by another name, and accomplishes nothing that simply writing new Fighter-Only feats doesn't already.

    EDIT: Oh, also, Chapter Two is up. Currently writing Chapter Three.
    Last edited by Ziegander; 2013-03-17 at 12:20 AM.
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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    I honestly favor just giving them menus... as I see the bonus feats as just asking for someone to finnegal their way into picking them up. The problem becomes filling the menus....

    I like this so far, interested to see how it ends...
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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    >> The Fighter has the second highest Hit Die in the game, being one step behind (and an average of 1 hit point behind per level) the Barbarian...!!

    Someone should've hit the guy that suggested the Barbarian class for 3e on the head with a blunt instrument.
    D&D 3.5 is over crouded with too many base classes (not to mention too many PrCs).
    I see no more justification for the Barbariam being a separate class than I would for Archer, Zealot, Thug, Berzerker, Martial Artist or even Knight or Swashbuckler.
    These all should be applicable by taking different build options with level progression.

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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    Quote Originally Posted by nonsi View Post
    >> The Fighter has the second highest Hit Die in the game, being one step behind (and an average of 1 hit point behind per level) the Barbarian...!!

    Someone should've hit the guy that suggested the Barbarian class for 3e on the head with a blunt instrument.
    D&D 3.5 is over crouded with too many base classes (not to mention too many PrCs).
    I see no more justification for the Barbariam being a separate class than I would for Archer, Zealot, Thug, Berzerker, Martial Artist or even Knight or Swashbuckler.
    These all should be applicable by taking different build options with level progression.
    Next your going to say that druid should have just been a cleric with some good domains... and you would be right. Honestly, I suspect you could colapse the base classes of 3.5 to like 6(int based caster, wis based caster, cha based caster, Skill monkey, Fighter, and hybrid caster/Fighter), or even 5 if you make the hybrids just fighter AFCs.

    Though I suspect the classes will be complicated as hell to fit in all the needed versitility... and Feats would have to be really good.
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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    Quote Originally Posted by bobthe6th View Post
    Next your going to say that druid should have just been a cleric with some good domains... and you would be right. Honestly, I suspect you could colapse the base classes of 3.5 to like 6(int based caster, wis based caster, cha based caster, Skill monkey, Fighter, and hybrid caster/Fighter), or even 5 if you make the hybrids just fighter AFCs.

    Though I suspect the classes will be complicated as hell to fit in all the needed versitility... and Feats would have to be really good.
    They need not be complicated at all.
    Did you ever encounter my homebrew codex ?
    I couldn't (or even attempted to) make it with 5, but with 14 base classes, I managed to process a baseline for the creation of every non-modern character concept I've ever encountered.

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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    I think that at least part of the issue with the Fighter is that because it was supposed to be a build-your-own-character idea unlike the others which at least imply some kind of backstory or imagery. The Fighter is a bland class. Even the name is the most boring word they could have chosen for it. Paladin's are defenders of the faith, Rangers are masters of the hunt and prevent the despoiling of nature, Barbarians are wildsmen who have no place in civilized society. And the Fighter? He fights... Now granted, a character who plays the aforementioned classes need not adhere to the stereotypes I listed, but it gives you some kind of idea to follow or reject. When I think of a Fighter with his slew of feats, it implies to me a level of training beyond that of a normal warrior, soldier or bodyguard are the strongest images in my head.
    Fixing the Fighter would require several changes in my mind. The first of which would be a consensus amongst players as to what constitutes a Fighter. Adding to the skill list would be the next step, so that a Fighter can contribute to situations that don't require decapitations. Spot would be an excellent addition, but perhaps Knowledge (Local) and Knowledge (Nobility) would be decent as well. The third change would be the most onerous, rehauling the feat system and making them worthwhile. Like the classes in the PHB, many feats are worlds apart in their usefulness and power. To add insult to injury, many of the best feats for magic users require no prerequisites while the ones intended for mundanes are weak and are built on a feat chain system. Maximize or Extend Spell are excellent feats that remain useful into higher levels, whereas the same can't be said of Combat Expertise.
    Adding some class features to the Fighter would certainly be nice. Even simple ones like removing movement speed penalties from armor are welcome. At it's core though, the feat system is the biggest flaw. While it's true that other classes can take the feats too, the Fighter would still have the advantage of taking far more of them. If it were worth it, I'm sure many Fighters would practice two or more weapon styles, unlike now where any melee combatant must use two-handed weapons.

    In summation: Define the class itself, more skills and skill points, a couple class features and a big fix of the feats themselves.
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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    How about:

    Keep Fighter Bonus Feats for customization

    Give Fighters Boosts to different weapon styles, like make it feasible for a Fighter to whip out his bow and shoot the flying enemy for actual damage, even if he is a focused 2 handed charger.

    So it could be something like
    1 - Quick Draw
    3 - Bonus to Fancy Maneuvers
    5 - Rope Trick Equiv * IE difficult to surprise even while sleeping, sleep in armor without penalty, etc etc
    7 - Add something no matter what weapon you're using?
    9 - overcome dr?
    ...?
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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    Quote Originally Posted by Ziegander View Post
    I have come to realize that such ability menus are silly because they serve the same function as designing lots of Fighter-Only feats and then giving the Fighter a bonus feat every level. It doesn't really solve the problems with the Fighter, even if it does help a little.
    And why not? A wizard is basically a familiar, some bonus feats, and a menu of wizard-only abilities, the difference being that the wizard menu actually gives powerful, versatile, worthwhile options. Sure, if all the new options are just fighter-only feats by another name it won't help at all, but giving the fighter a list of new abilities which don't have to conform to the low power level and pathetic standards of feats and can't be poached by warblades or other "count as a fighter for feats" classes instead of just throwing bonus feats at him seems like a perfectly workable solution.

    I think one of the major reasons that martial classes rarely get Nice Things is that 'brewers don't like to give fighter types their own ability menus to draw from, instead relying on bonus feats or giving them just a handful of selectable abilities. The major difference between the a fighter fix's class abilities and the wizard's class abilities is that this table...

    Spoiler
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    {table]Fighter Level|Special
    1|Weapon Aptitude, Improviser, Power Attack, Improved Bull Rush
    2|Combat Trance, Adrenaline Rush, Combat Expertise, Weapon Focus
    3|Weapon Training, Armor Training, Improved Shield Bash, Skill Focus
    4|Grit, Never Give Up, Weapon Specialization, Improved Grapple
    5|First in the Fray, Delayed Damage Pool, Improved Feint, Two-Weapon Fighting
    6|Dungeoncrasher, Fearsome, Shock Trooper, Karmic Strike
    7|Foil Action, Battle Clarity, Improved Trip, Shield Ward
    8|Tactician, Lethal Gambit, Stand Still, Improved Disarm
    9|Fighting Dirty, Pack Mule, Agile Shield Fighter, Improved Critical
    10|Mettle, Steady Stance, Jack of All Trades, Knockback
    11|...
    12|etc.[/table]

    ...looks like a messy, random, overly-crowded list of bonus feats, borrowed class features, and stuff you've never heard of, whereas this table...

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    {table]Wizard Level|1st|2nd|3rd|4th|5th
    1|1||||
    2|2||||
    3|2|1|||
    4|3|2|||
    5|3|2|1||
    6|3|3|2||
    7|4|3|2|1|
    8|4|3|3|2|
    9|4|4|3|2|1
    10|4|4|3|3|2
    11|...
    12|etc.[/table]

    ...is nice, clean, and easily understood on a first glance, offloading all the heavy mental processing until you actually start picking spells, at which point you're already invested in playing a wizard and don't have to judge the class as a whole.

    If you set up the fighter's abilities similarly, structuring them into several groups and levels and splitting off the ability lists from the rest of the class description, you can make a table like this:

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    {table]Fighter Level|Soldier Techniques|Hero Techniques|Legend Techniques|Epic Techniques
    1|3|||
    2|3|||
    3|3|||
    4|4|||
    5|4|||
    6|4|2||
    7|5|2||
    8|5|2||
    9|5|3||
    10|6|3||
    11|...
    12|etc.[/table]

    ...that won't have people complaining about an overstuffed Special column, and you can write abilities like this:

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    Army Slayer
    Tier: Legend
    Prerequisite: Two Hero-tier techniques from the Dreadnaught or Berserker path
    Benefit: Make two attack rolls at your highest base attack bonus and two damage rolls with your main hand, and take the higher result for both. As a full-round action, you may move up to four times your speed and make a single attack against each creature that comes within your reach, using the above attack and damage rolls instead of rolling for each creature individually. Any creatures with fewer hit dice than half your base attack bonus whom you do not kill but who witness you slaughter their allies must make a Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 level + Str bonus) or become panicked for 5 minutes or until the end of combat, whichever happens first.


    ...instead of ones like this:

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    Ultimate Secret Weapon Knowledge
    Prerequisites: Fighter level 18, Weapon Focus (longsword), Weapon Specialization (longsword), Greater Weapon Focus (longsword), Greater Weapon Specialization (longsword), Weapon Supremacy (longsword), Weapon Mastery (longsword), Improved Critical (longsword)
    Benefit: You get yet another boring +2 to attack and damage rolls with longswords that stacks with the boring bonuses from the prerequisite feats.
    Special: Warblades cannot use their Weapon Aptitude class feature to take this feat as a bonus feat, since they have standards.

    Like Waker said, the concept of the fighter class is "take this class and make every Fighting-Man ever" just like the wizard's concept is "take this class and make every Magic-User ever." And just like the wizard, the fighter needs to have customizable lists of stuff to pick from so he can be built in any way you want--and he has to get enough of them to do that, to end up as a well-rounded character with lots of in-theme options, and not just get stuck with a handful of mediocre feats at level 20.

    Making the fighter focus on a weapon style will not fix the fighter. Giving the fighter +AC past the first few levels will not fix the fighter. The fact that wizards are judged by spell power (such that "ripping holes in reality" and "being immune to tons of stuff" are valid high-level spell concepts) while fighters are judged by feat power (such that "hit a little harder" and "use armor better" are valid high-level feat concepts) is what's holding the fighter back, and until the fighter can be divorced from the feat system while still remaining the customizable everyman class he cannot be fixed satisfactorily.
    Last edited by PairO'Dice Lost; 2013-04-20 at 10:05 PM.
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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    I've just seen a whole buncha people take one look at that maneuver list and cry "ToB makes Fighters into Wizards!"

    I love the idea, personally, but what is different from your Fighter up there and a Warblade, really?
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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    Quote Originally Posted by NotScaryBats View Post
    I've just seen a whole buncha people take one look at that maneuver list and cry "ToB makes Fighters into Wizards!"
    That's precisely what I'm talking about; it's that formatting that's the problem. People have somehow got it into their heads that having a column with numbers on it means "magic" and having a bunch of words in the Special column means "not magic" despite the fact that the warblade (with a bunch of numbers in columns) is a nonmagical class and this (which looks almost exactly like a fighter) is a magical class.

    The people who can't accept that number column =/= magic or think that warblades are "casting spells" are not (or at least shouldn't be) the target of fighter fixes; they have something that works for them, and that's fine, everyone is entitled to their own playstyle. I'd like to think that people who actually want a working fighter can look beyond table formatting to get a class that actually works, but what do I know?

    I love the idea, personally, but what is different from your Fighter up there and a Warblade, really?
    Superficially? Not much, their tables will probably look fairly similar. It's the actual selectable abilities that make the difference, and you're not going to find an ability like Army Slayer in ToB.
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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    Quote Originally Posted by PairO'Dice Lost View Post
    Like Waker said, the concept of the fighter class is "take this class and make every Fighting-Man ever" just like the wizard's concept is "take this class and make every Magic-User ever." And just like the wizard, the fighter needs to have customizable lists of stuff to pick from so he can be built in any way you want--and he has to get enough of them to do that, to end up as a well-rounded character with lots of in-theme options, and not just get stuck with a handful of mediocre feats at level 20.

    Making the fighter focus on a weapon style will not fix the fighter. Giving the fighter +AC past the first few levels will not fix the fighter. The fact that wizards are judged by spell power (such that "ripping holes in reality" and "being immune to tons of stuff" are valid high-level spell concepts) while fighters are judged by feat power (such that "hit a little harder" and "use armor better" are valid high-level feat concepts) is what's holding the fighter back, and until the fighter can be divorced from the feat system while still remaining the customizable everyman class he cannot be fixed satisfactorily.
    Coming up with neatly defined tables charting the progress of an archetype would help. You could create a base list of skills that all Fighters share, but then add extras dependent on which type of Fighter you are playing. Establishing a chassis to build upon would help, then deciding which archetypes would you want a Fighter to have. Then when you are asked what you are playing you could say "I'm playing a Guerilla" rather then "I'm playing a *yawn* Fighter." If a Wizard specializes in a field of magic, his class name changes to suit the school. Why shouldn't a Fighter change based on his approach?
    When coming up with the specialties of the archetypes though, you'll probably need to make sure not to follow the style of ToB. Even if fluff is mutable, too many people hate the idea of mundanes with magic-type abilities. Making the various combat styles actually playable would be an admirable goal. And instead of just giving the Fighter bigger numbers, being able to contribute to a fight in a meaningful way would be nice. Finding ways to not be completely obviated by flying enemies is just one example.

    And I'll state it again, feats are terrible. I enjoy the idea of the system, but they need to be reworked, which I am slowly in the process of doing.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PairO'Dice Lost View Post
    And why not? A wizard is basically a familiar, some bonus feats, and a menu of wizard-only abilities, the difference being that the wizard menu actually gives powerful, versatile, worthwhile options.
    The Wizard gets two free picks from that menu per class level and can add more picks to that by spending time and trivial amounts of money.

    Sure, if all the new options are just fighter-only feats by another name it won't help at all, but giving the fighter a list of new abilities which don't have to conform to the low power level and pathetic standards of feats and can't be poached by warblades or other "count as a fighter for feats" classes instead of just throwing bonus feats at him seems like a perfectly workable solution.
    Yes, you are potentially right. What I called silly was precisely the notion of designing menus of Fighter-Only feats and not calling them Fighter-Only feats in the first place. If we venture outside the realm of feats entirely, then we can go all sorts of places. But are we still working on "The Fighter" once we've gone all the way out there?

    That is a major concern.

    If you set up the fighter's abilities similarly, structuring them into several groups and levels and splitting off the ability lists from the rest of the class description, you can make a table like this:

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    {table]Fighter Level|Soldier Techniques|Hero Techniques|Legend Techniques|Epic Techniques
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    2|3|||
    3|3|2||
    4|4|2||
    5|4|2|1|
    6|4|3|1|
    7|5|3|1|1
    8|5|3|2|1
    9|5|4|2|1
    10|6|4|2|2
    11|...
    12|etc.[/table]
    My olde-timey Warlord, from way back in the day followed a similar pattern, although it still used feats as the source of power and was designed to cater to the prevailing trends of what ailed Fighters and Fighter Fans at the time.

    ...that won't have people complaining about an overstuffed Special column, and you can write abilities like this:

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    So... if I could get my Warlord to have a baby with Xefas's Sun Hero, we just might get somewhere. Oh, and I could finally find a use for all of these! This does sound good, I'll give you that. The trick will be to retain the customization and generalist nature of the Fighter. Icing on the cake would be if it still felt thoroughly mundane at levels 1-5.

    Like Waker said, the concept of the fighter class is "take this class and make every Fighting-Man ever" just like the wizard's concept is "take this class and make every Magic-User ever." And just like the wizard, the fighter needs to have customizable lists of stuff to pick from so he can be built in any way you want--and he has to get enough of them to do that, to end up as a well-rounded character with lots of in-theme options, and not just get stuck with a handful of mediocre feats at level 20.

    Making the fighter focus on a weapon style will not fix the fighter. Giving the fighter +AC past the first few levels will not fix the fighter. The fact that wizards are judged by spell power (such that "ripping holes in reality" and "being immune to tons of stuff" are valid high-level spell concepts) while fighters are judged by feat power (such that "hit a little harder" and "use armor better" are valid high-level feat concepts) is what's holding the fighter back, and until the fighter can be divorced from the feat system while still remaining the customizable everyman class he cannot be fixed satisfactorily.
    Seerow has said it on multiple occasions that he doesn't think it would be possible for him to fix the Fighter without a complete game system overhaul and rebalance. It is easy to agree with him. People are going to be resistant to any "Fighter Fix" that does the job by removing the Barbarian and Knight classes or requiring that the Monk, Ranger, and Paladin also be fixed by some future update by the author that may (and will likely) never come.

    If it were so easy to design this perfect class that was equal parts level-appropriate power and freeform customization, loved by all, and accepted into all of our homes, then we would have designed it already. Instead, through trial and error, we are all still working on it. Nobody's gotten it right, and reviewers consistently find Fighter Fixes to be "too anime" or "too focused" or something else. It's not just about marrying power and customization. Presentation and user-accessibility are equally if not more important aspects of class design, and the Fighter in particular has proven to be a class in which putting all of these elements together in a single package seems to be excruciatingly difficult for whatever reasons.
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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    Quote Originally Posted by Ziegander View Post
    The Wizard gets two free picks from that menu per class level and can add more picks to that by spending time and trivial amounts of money.
    And several fighter fixes let them do something similar with fighter feats, while plenty of caster fixes drastically restrict spells known without reining in the power level much. It's the individual abilities that matter, not the structure surrounding them.

    Yes, you are potentially right. What I called silly was precisely the notion of designing menus of Fighter-Only feats and not calling them Fighter-Only feats in the first place.
    That I can agree with.

    If we venture outside the realm of feats entirely, then we can go all sorts of places. But are we still working on "The Fighter" once we've gone all the way out there?
    I'd say so. The fighter wasn't just "the feat guy" in AD&D, and he doesn't have to be the feat guy in 3e or a revision thereto. The rogue is still recognizably roguish if you change up sneak attack with ambush feats or changing the die size a bit, the wizard is still recognizably wizardly if you muck around with spell prep times and spell acquisition, and so forth, so changing the fighter to use his own subsystem doesn't have to change him too much thematically.

    Seerow has said it on multiple occasions that he doesn't think it would be possible for him to fix the Fighter without a complete game system overhaul and rebalance. It is easy to agree with him. People are going to be resistant to any "Fighter Fix" that does the job by removing the Barbarian and Knight classes or requiring that the Monk, Ranger, and Paladin also be fixed by some future update by the author that may (and will likely) never come.
    Oh, definitely. Making the fighter independent of the feat system is a necessary condition for fixing it, but not a sufficient one. But doing that system overhaul isn't hard, either; the problems are known, people have potential solutions, and there are a few bazillion fighter fixes out there (2/3 of which you wrote ) from which to draw inspiration. The main impediment is effort and time (and organization, if you're trying to run a communal project), not actual difficulty, and that's another reason why people would rather just point players at the list of several hundred pre-written fighter feats than write everything up themselves.
    Last edited by PairO'Dice Lost; 2013-03-17 at 03:28 AM.
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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    Part of the problem with the Fighter affects all martial classes (but the Fighter especially due to the total lack of Supernatural stuff): the system itself plays against them. Fixing the Fighter completely requires a deeper change than a class swap.

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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    One thing that 3e fighter fixes often ignore is that in 2e, fighters actually ended up with the best saves, in all areas. Fighters really need a mechanic that let's them say "screw you, saving throw check".

    My personal fix for this aspect was to let them re-roll saving throws a number of times per day equal to their class level. This is a free action used at the time the saving throw is made, and if need be, the PC could burn through 20 re-rolls to make the save against that flesh to stone spell.

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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    Ive been brewing the notion of making a series of specialist fighter classes. I reasoned that the biggest problem with the fighter is that it tries to do too much with one class, so I made specialized variants. They all get the fighter's feats (minus one which is picked for them at 1st level) and get unique class features and a few more skills besides that. This allows the fighter classes to excel at one thing and still be pretty decent at other things as well.

    There's the Archer (Any ranged-based concept), the Gladiator (two-weapon/double weapon specialist that fights dirty), the Shocktroop (2-handed weapons and battlefield control/chopping and breaking things and knocking foes silly), as well as improved versions of the paladin (more smite and heals/class features), swashbuckler (more feats/class features), and knight (renamed as Guardian. Sword and board defensive specialist). I havent touched monk yet, but that's on the way, and ranger is fine where it is.

    They all have their niches, but they are also highly customizable. Loading a gladiator down with ranged feats and handing him a bunch of javelins gets you a rapid-fire two-fisted spear-chucker build (my players almost died against that orc). Give an archer some melee feats, and boom, dwarven axe fighter who throws as deadly as he melees. They also have skills, hit dice, and armor proficiencies that vary from class to class, reflecting each one's specialty.

    All of their class features are compared to some of the things casters are capable of doing at the same level, but without all the cheese. At the same time, Im in the process of designing T3 caster classes to replace the t1-2s in a similar vein as my summoner and witch classes that I've posted here in the past. When Im done, I think the barbarian, bard, ranger, and rogue will be the only untouched core classes.
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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    I've said it before and I will say it again... I've come to the conclusion that one of the problems Fighter has in the 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons is, ironically, the game's focus on combat. In many other games, fighting is just one of the skill sets. In a group of PCs, you might find a person who is a professional combatant, another who can handle herself in a combat situation in a pinch and yet another one who has no idea how to handle a weapon and/or lacks whatever combat abilities or power the game's genre might have. Not so in 3e D&D, where everyone is supposed to contribute to combat in a roughly equal measure, and combat takes up the majority of the game. So what do we do with the person whose only skill is fighting? Even other full BaB classes have something non-combat to bring to the table. I don't think this is a problem that can be solved without completely rewriting 3e.

    In general, my view of the issue is that while all the problems with the Fighter class that you've listed are undisputably true, they're no less important than what you mentioned in the first post but haven't elaborated upon yet - the fundamental assumptions in the design of the 3rd edition that screw over all martial classes, but the Fighter in particular.

    Most Fighter fixes, especially the better ones, give them a laundry-list of abilities that let them ignore or resist the various effects the game is liable to throw at them with increasing frequency above level 5. This is, of course, a result of the fact that regular saving throws and hit points simply aren't enough not to be completely shut off. It's how the game is built, because the designers greviously underestimated such abilities. As a result, Fighter fixes tend to turn them into larger-than-life unstoppable juggernauts from relatively low levels... because being a larger-than-life unstoppable juggernaut is what it takes to resist special and magic abilities.

    I find it problematic not just from the thematic viewpoint but also the gamist viewpoint, so to speak. I don't think it's a good sign if the game turns into a rocket-tag where everyone throws abilities that can either be shrugged off or shut down the enemy completely if they're not shrugged off.

    So, there you have it. I think the reasons for the Fighter's suckitude are rooted as much in the basic design decisions (or mistakes) of 3e as they are in the class's awful design. It has been of course mentioned in your posts and those of others, but I felt like chiming in.
    Last edited by Morty; 2013-03-17 at 10:43 AM.
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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    I feel like the single largest obstacle to a widely-accepted fighter fix is, as was previously pointed out, the vast range of opinions on what a fighter should look like. Do general abilities kill the fighter? Is picking all of his features off lists too much? He doesn't have any feats, how can he still be a fighter? He can't deal with invisible or flying enemies! He's too anime! He can't compete with casters!

    Ultimately, I think that we almost need a set of fighter fixes to appeal to different groups. There's the still-tier-4 "feats and numbers" fighter (not bad, but doesn't go far enough!), there's the "I have class features now, guys!" fighter (not customizable enough!), and there's the full-on "I kill armies with a standard action" fighter (too anime!)

    Or maybe even that's too ambitious; maybe all we can do is to make or find a fix that works for our table.



    On an unrelated note, while I like my recent efforts a lot, some of the discussion about what a fighter needs to be able to do is making me want to resurrect my "screw logic/physics/reality!" Legend. Which always walked a shaky line between T3 and T2, and was never finished (so many special abilities to write!), but could certainly do a lot of the epic things being discussed))

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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    Quote Originally Posted by Morty View Post
    I've said it before and I will say it again... I've come to the conclusion that one of the problems Fighter has in the 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons is, ironically, the game's focus on combat. In many other games, fighting is just one of the skill sets. In a group of PCs, you might find a person who is a professional combatant, another who can handle herself in a combat situation in a pinch and yet another one who has no idea how to handle a weapon and/or lacks whatever combat abilities or power the game's genre might have. Not so in 3e D&D, where everyone is supposed to contribute to combat in a roughly equal measure, and combat takes up the majority of the game. So what do we do with the person whose only skill is fighting? Even other full BaB classes have something non-combat to bring to the table. I don't think this is a problem that can be solved without completely rewriting 3e.
    I think this is a large part of the issue, but it's not that the game is purely about combat; if it were, then fighters' lack of noncombat features wouldn't be such an issue. The problem is that D&D is itself schizophrenic about how much of a role combat should play, so you get everyone being designed to be as good at combat as the fighter (as if it were purely combat), but it's not purely combat so that means the fighter (who has nothing else) loses out.

    As a result, Fighter fixes tend to turn them into larger-than-life unstoppable juggernauts from relatively low levels... because being a larger-than-life unstoppable juggernaut is what it takes to resist special and magic abilities.
    I still think that "Every magic effect and most special abilities allow saves, and a fighter has good saves against nearly all of them*, and saves are improved across the board" would do the job.

    *I'd allow exceptions for certain illusions and charm spells, as those aren't so good in combat anyway.

    I find it problematic not just from the thematic viewpoint but also the gamist viewpoint, so to speak. I don't think it's a good sign if the game turns into a rocket-tag where everyone throws abilities that can either be shrugged off or shut down the enemy completely if they're not shrugged off.

    So, there you have it. I think the reasons for the Fighter's suckitude are rooted as much in the basic design decisions (or mistakes) of 3e as they are in the class's awful design. It has been of course mentioned in your posts and those of others, but I felt like chiming in.
    I think you're absolutely right.

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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    Quote Originally Posted by Yitzi View Post
    I think this is a large part of the issue, but it's not that the game is purely about combat; if it were, then fighters' lack of noncombat features wouldn't be such an issue. The problem is that D&D is itself schizophrenic about how much of a role combat should play, so you get everyone being designed to be as good at combat as the fighter (as if it were purely combat), but it's not purely combat so that means the fighter (who has nothing else) loses out.
    That's a good point. A lot of the problems with D&D 3.x are caused by its schizophrenic design, really.

    I still think that "Every magic effect and most special abilities allow saves, and a fighter has good saves against nearly all of them*, and saves are improved across the board" would do the job.
    I'm not sure if it would work or not, but, again, it requires some rather fundamental rewrite of the game.

    I think you're absolutely right.
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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    ever think of doing something like this?

    1st - Mixed Training (Ex):
    Choose three different skills not found on the fighter skills list. They are now treated as class skills, receiving a +2 bonus to each skill. Once chosen the choices are permanent.

    5th - I Got A Plan! (Ex):
    This ability allows a fighter to choose one combat or teamwork feat that he qualifies for, utilizing it for up to one round + 1/2 fighter level. This ability can be used a number of times per day equal to your Intelligence modifier, plus an additional use once per day at 5th level, twice at 10th, three times at 15th level, and finally four times at 20th level.

    10th - I'm Working On It (Ex):
    This ability allows a fighter to choose one combat or teamwork feat that he qualifies for, utilizing it for up to one hour + 1/2 fighter level. This ability can be changed with 1 minute of practice.

    15th - I Got It Covered (Ex):
    This ability allows a fighter to choose any one feat (combat or otherwise) that he qualifies for, utilizing it until altered. This ability can be changed with 1 hour of practice.

    it allows a fighter to change its feats a bit, allowing him to "pull a rabbit out of his hat", when its favorable to do so.
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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    I just made another attempt at a generalist high-tier martial class called "the champion".

    The list of abilities is not complete (on account of how it would be over 100 abilities long and I can't write that many since my last homebrew this morning) but low-level and capstone abilities are there to show where I intend the class to go and how it would work.

    OTOH, there is that image of Joan of Ark giving the correct feel for the class.


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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    Quote Originally Posted by Ashtagon View Post
    One thing that 3e fighter fixes often ignore is that in 2e, fighters actually ended up with the best saves, in all areas. Fighters really need a mechanic that let's them say "screw you, saving throw check".

    My personal fix for this aspect was to let them re-roll saving throws a number of times per day equal to their class level. This is a free action used at the time the saving throw is made, and if need be, the PC could burn through 20 re-rolls to make the save against that flesh to stone spell.
    The thing to remember here is, for each change made to the Fighter class, one must recognize and account for the effects it will have on the rest of the game. If the Fighter is able to make all saves all the time, then why isn't the Barbarian, or the Knight, or the Paladin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jarrick View Post
    Ive been brewing the notion of making a series of specialist fighter classes. I reasoned that the biggest problem with the fighter is that it tries to do too much with one class, so I made specialized variants. They all get the fighter's feats (minus one which is picked for them at 1st level) and get unique class features and a few more skills besides that. This allows the fighter classes to excel at one thing and still be pretty decent at other things as well.
    Not a bad idea at all. The question then becomes, "when do you stop folding classes into the Fighter class?" You mention later in the post that you'd keep the Barbarian basically as is. Why? Why not fold it into the Fighter class? The way I see it, the four classes that are most suited to being folded into the Fighter are Barbarian, Knight, Ranger (Archery), and Swashbuckler. The Paladin I would leave as a Cleric/Fighter PrC and the Monk I would make into a more much mystical, intellectual, medium BAB, utility/support guy.

    An interesting side effect to this sort of approach is that, every time I consider it, I wonder what to do with the Rogue. Is he the skills guy or the sneaky combat guy? Both at once? If he's as good at combat, if not better at a specific niche of it, as the Fighter, then why is he not a subset of Fighter? Is that what the Swashbuckler really is? Should the Swashbuckler then get Sneak Attack? If the Rogue no longer gets Sneak Attack, then what does he get? If skills were more useful and powerful, then maybe he could get stuff like Poison Use and be done with it, but as things stand, I never know what to do with the Rogue.

    Quote Originally Posted by Morty View Post
    In general, my view of the issue is that while all the problems with the Fighter class that you've listed are undisputably true, they're no less important than what you mentioned in the first post but haven't elaborated upon yet - the fundamental assumptions in the design of the 3rd edition that screw over all martial classes, but the Fighter in particular.
    And I will get to them, don't worry. I've begun to touch on them in Chapter 3.

    I find it problematic not just from the thematic viewpoint but also the gamist viewpoint, so to speak. I don't think it's a good sign if the game turns into a rocket-tag where everyone throws abilities that can either be shrugged off or shut down the enemy completely if they're not shrugged off.
    I agree with you there, and fixing something like this would require a more thorough game redesign; however, fixing the Fighter doesn't strictly require this sort of rebalancing. It would certainly help and likely be preferable, but it isn't absolutely necessary. Better to fix something in a way that still allows you to play the game and come back and fix other things when you can, than to fix something that immediately requires you to fix everything else before you can play again.

    Quote Originally Posted by Grod_The_Giant View Post
    Ultimately, I think that we almost need a set of fighter fixes to appeal to different groups. There's the still-tier-4 "feats and numbers" fighter (not bad, but doesn't go far enough!), there's the "I have class features now, guys!" fighter (not customizable enough!), and there's the full-on "I kill armies with a standard action" fighter (too anime!)

    Or maybe even that's too ambitious; maybe all we can do is to make or find a fix that works for our table.
    I tend to disagree. The Warblade has been the most widely accepted and popular "Fighter fix" ever made, and the biggest complaints about it are:

    1) It uses "spells." Work on the presentation of the abilities, and you can address this complaint, at least to some degree.

    2) The fluff. Easy to fix. Don't use "blade magic" fluff overly informed by Eastern pop culture and mythology. Done.

    3) The base competence is too high. Warblades are Tier 3 (advanced Tier 4 in actuality, but for the sake of argument let's say Tier 3), and they are almost impossible to play down to anything less competent. A Cleric or a Wizard, on the other hand, is Tier 1, but is very easy to play down to other levels. In fact, it's so easy to do this with those classes that many players do so without even knowing it. So, if we make a class similar to a Warblade but tweak it's upper and lower levels of competency, then we should reasonably address this concern as well.

    LOTS of people really love the Warblade class. The success of the Tome of Battle helped propel the success of the entire 4th Edition of D&D (even if in only some small way). By learning from the Warblade's example, we can surely create something with even more mass appeal, right (well, as much as possible without the benefit of marketing and publishing muscle)?

    Quote Originally Posted by LordErebus12 View Post
    ever think of doing something like this?
    [...]it allows a fighter to change its feats a bit, allowing him to "pull a rabbit out of his hat", when its favorable to do so.
    Yep, my most recent idea, the Fighter's Repertoire actually mimics the Wizard's spell book, giving the Fighter an unprecedented number of feat options. Lots of people over the years have enabled the Fighter to change its feats, ranging from a little bit to a LOT (many of my Fighter fixes allow the Fighter to retrain his feats in as little as an hour to as limited as once per four levels he may retrain one feat).

    In closing this massive post, I just want to remind everyone I'm still working on Chapter 3. My discussion of levels 5-6 is up now, and the chapter will conclude with a discussion of levels 7+ in which I will go into more detail about how the game system itself is unkind to warrior-types and to the Fighter in particular.
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    Special Thanks: Kymme! You and your awesome avatarist skills have made me a Lore Warden in addition to King of Fighter Fixes!

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    Default Re: The Fighter Problem & How to Fix It

    Quote Originally Posted by Ziegander View Post
    The thing to remember here is, for each change made to the Fighter class, one must recognize and account for the effects it will have on the rest of the game. If the Fighter is able to make all saves all the time, then why isn't the Barbarian, or the Knight, or the Paladin?
    Barbarian, knight, and paladin have their own cool class powers already. Admittedly those are underpowered, but the point is they have something that is identifiably theirs.

    As part of an overall fix, those classes should be up-tiered, and the fighter should be brought up to 1e/2e standards (so grognards can play a fighter as they expect it to play), and given some new cool features of their own, possibly focused around weapon training (but not the crappy feats we have now).

    If the other warrior classes then want to sulk about their saves relative to the fighter, they can always multiclass.

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