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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    Epiphanis's Avatar

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    Default Weighing Class Traits

    It seems clear that the WotC D&D character class design philosophy diverges from the online gmaing community's popular perception. I thought I'd examine some of the discrepancies between the points of view here. I'm not actually advocating which of the conflicting viewpoints are correct, just where the differences exist.

    1) To popular perception, being able to do many different things only once or twice is more valuable than being able to do a small number of things many times.

    Preparation spellcasters like clerics and wizards are favored over spontaneous casters like favored souls and sorcerers, who in turn are favored over limited-number-of-effects casters like warlocks and Tome of Magic's shadowcasters.

    Likewise, spellcasters with access to spells that empower them to temporarily do noncaster functions (Divine Power, Tenser's Transformation, Detect Traps) are deemed superior to noncasters who can do those functions indefinitely.

    Is this because DMs are scaling the number of times functions must be performed to the limitations of the multiple-function-but-limited-uses characters? Are parties "calling it a day" the moment the wizard runs low on spells, where a party with a sorcerer could go longer?

    2) Popularly, defensive capability is vastly inferior to offensive capability.

    Power Attack is much more popular than Combat Expertise.

    Many proponents claim that the d4 hit points of a party consisting exclusively of wizards are sufficient compared to the d10s/d12s of the martial classes, on the presumption that wizards will overpower any opposition before they themselves can be overwhelmed.

    Good save progressions are afforded little weight in assessing class value; for example, Favored Souls and Monks are popularly considered underpowered.

    One common criticism of the Warlock class is that many of its powers are geared to the individual warlock's survivability but doesn't contribute to the party's aggregate success.

    Is it possible that combat is shorter and deadlier in popular play than WotC design intended? Do PCs risk sudden death for a quick kill in preference to a more assured win that takes more rounds?

    3) "Cooperative" abilities requiring another's assistance to exploit are undervalued compared to what a character can do alone.

    The definitive example of this is the bard, who is one of the most effective classes viewed in terms of adding to the total party effectiveness, but nevertheless often discounted. Similar arguments apply to a lesser extent to marshals and dragon shamans.

    "Buffing" spells do not appear to be much favored among spellcasters.

    Rogues and fighters usually intimidate better than full casters, but the saving throw penalty of the shaken effect is more exploitable by casters; intimidation isn't greatly favored by these noncasters.

    Is this because players don't coordinate with each other to the extent the designers intended/expected? Is it because teammates are too unpredicatable?


    ***

    Any other observations on these discrepancies, or comments on these?

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    NinjaGuy

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    Default Re: Weighing Class Traits

    "buffing" spells are only used by spellcasters when it's a cleric casting it on himself (or herself).

    The divine casters in particular are screwed up. Clerics and Druids aren't intended to be tanks; they're intended to be healing/buffing/support.


    I do think that there are big problems with wizards though. With the type of optimized Wizard-ing tactics that people on this board advocate (I know not everyone does, but some people consistently do), it's pretty much assumed that you will not be having 4 encounters per day. If you run out of spells, just pop into your Magnificent Mansion, or go to your own plane where time flows faster. D&D is balanced for having four encounters per day, and if you dont have those, whether because your DM doesn't give them to you or because you avoid them, it can unbalance the game in significant ways. This really goes back to your first point: if you had more encounters forced upon you, you would appreciate Rogues and Fighters and Sorcerors more, because the Cleric ran out of Divine Might, or the Wizard is out of spells, or whatever.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Weighing Class Traits

    Quote Originally Posted by Epiphanis View Post
    It seems clear that the WotC D&D character class design philosophy diverges from the online gmaing community's popular perception. I thought I'd examine some of the discrepancies between the points of view here. I'm not actually advocating which of the conflicting viewpoints are correct, just where the differences exist.

    1) To popular perception, being able to do many different things only once or twice is more valuable than being able to do a small number of things many times.

    Preparation spellcasters like clerics and wizards are favored over spontaneous casters like favored souls and sorcerers, who in turn are favored over limited-number-of-effects casters like warlocks and Tome of Magic's shadowcasters.

    Likewise, spellcasters with access to spells that empower them to temporarily do noncaster functions (Divine Power, Tenser's Transformation, Detect Traps) are deemed superior to noncasters who can do those functions indefinitely.

    Is this because DMs are scaling the number of times functions must be performed to the limitations of the multiple-function-but-limited-uses characters? Are parties "calling it a day" the moment the wizard runs low on spells, where a party with a sorcerer could go longer?
    Yes and yes. Not that this is a bad thing. There's a reason behind V's explanation of the one random encounter per travel segment rule. Players (usually) get bored with just hacking through endless opponents. Also, parties usually do go to bed when the wizard runs low rather than face the possibility of confronting a really powerful foe without the wizard at top form (this is the same reason that you heal the fighter when he's low on hit points, it's just less obvious). Do you go into battle without your artillery? Not if you can avoid it.

    2) Popularly, defensive capability is vastly inferior to offensive capability.

    Power Attack is much more popular than Combat Expertise.

    Many proponents claim that the d4 hit points of a party consisting exclusively of wizards are sufficient compared to the d10s/d12s of the martial classes, on the presumption that wizards will overpower any opposition before they themselves can be overwhelmed.

    Good save progressions are afforded little weight in assessing class value; for example, Favored Souls and Monks are popularly considered underpowered.

    One common criticism of the Warlock class is that many of its powers are geared to the individual warlock's survivability but doesn't contribute to the party's aggregate success.

    Is it possible that combat is shorter and deadlier in popular play than WotC design intended? Do PCs risk sudden death for a quick kill in preference to a more assured win that takes more rounds?
    The best defense is a good offense. What can I say? When your opponent is dead, he can't hurt you any more. Also, many of the obvious methods for defending yourself are woefully underpowered compared to the methods your opponent can use to defeat them. A shield, in real life combat, is an enormous bonus in a fight, which isn't adequately represented by a measly +2 to AC.

    This is not to say that there are no good defensive builds/options. But when your opponent can swing a greatsword once a second you want him dead - not momentarily frustrated.

    Some good defensive options include:

    - Initiate of the Sevenfold Veil. If you can get over the built-in cheese in this PrC you become immune to a lot of things in a hurry.

    - Undead Templates. You can make it work, and these also have enormous lists of immunities.

    - Optimized Defensive Builds. I've seen a Gnome Fighter with 50-odd AC at level 6. That's really tough to beat.

    - Regeneration. If you can get real, honest-to-goodness regeneration you're well secured in terms of defense.

    - Mobility. Not the movement-speed type, the "Oh noes you've surprised me - I teleport to the other side of the world" type. Your opponent can't hit you if you aren't there.

    - Flight. You'd be surprised at some of the retardedly powerful monsters that can't fly. There are creatures in the ELH that can be killed by level 9 wizards and Overland flight.

    - Concealment. Similarly, stealthy types are tough to hit too - at least until you run into a good wizard.

    That's the basic rundown on good DnD defensive strategies as I've experienced them.

    3) "Cooperative" abilities requiring another's assistance to exploit are undervalued compared to what a character can do alone.

    The definitive example of this is the bard, who is one of the most effective classes viewed in terms of adding to the total party effectiveness, but nevertheless often discounted. Similar arguments apply to a lesser extent to marshals and dragon shamans.

    "Buffing" spells do not appear to be much favored among spellcasters.

    Rogues and fighters usually intimidate better than full casters, but the saving throw penalty of the shaken effect is more exploitable by casters; intimidation isn't greatly favored by these noncasters.

    Is this because players don't coordinate with each other to the extent the designers intended/expected? Is it because teammates are too unpredicatable?
    Well, that and that it's easiest to compare classes in a vacuum. Also, tactics that depend on other players are tactics that can be defeated by the failure and incapacitation of other players. With that in mind, many players try to create characters that can contribute to the group alone or with teamwork, rather than relying on thier allies. Case in point - how effective is bardsong/haste/mass fly when all of your teammates are incapacitated? Wouldn't you rather have a good Gate spell instead?
    ***

    Any other observations on these discrepancies, or comments on these?
    Nah, looks good to me.
    Last edited by Jade_Tarem; 2007-04-20 at 02:03 AM.
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  4. - Top - End - #4
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Jack Mann's Avatar

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    Default Re: Weighing Class Traits

    The problem with trying to use more encounters is that at higher levels, fighters will run out of hit points before the casters run out of spells. Add into this the fact that it's relatively easy for mages to arrange safe rest (rope trick, magnificent mansion, etc.), and wizards gain a definite advantage.

    Sorcerers may have more spells per day, but not really that many more (especially when you factor in bonus spells and specialization). Not enough to balance out the wizard's greater repertoire, even with the greater flexibility the sorcerer has.

    Tenser's transformation, mind you, is not a good substitute for a melee, the way divine power can help the cleric substitute for the fighter. It's largely the cleric's ability to keep casting spells that makes him a superior melee specialist. Transformation takes that away. As for detect traps, while it can let you go without a rogue, I wouldn't say it's superior. The rogue can ultimately do a better job, and it takes a fair number of spells to substitute for him. It's just irksome that a wizard can replace him if necessary.
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  5. - Top - End - #5
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Weighing Class Traits

    Quote Originally Posted by Epiphanis View Post
    1) To popular perception, being able to do many different things only once or twice is more valuable than being able to do a small number of things many times.
    As far as different spellcasters go, it's more a matter of being able to do many different AND MORE POWERFUL things once or twice being more valuable than being able to do a small number of WEAKER things many times. A specialist wizard is going to have as many spells per day of their highest level as a sorcerer is (at least after level 4), and half the time they're a whole level of spells above the sorcerer.

    Quote Originally Posted by Epiphanis View Post
    3) "Cooperative" abilities requiring another's assistance to exploit are undervalued compared to what a character can do alone.
    Again there's also a question of how powerful they actually are. Bards are good at adding to the party's effectiveness but it's not like they are totally uber awesome at boosting teammates.

    Buffs are great if you have time to prepare for combat, but it takes precious time to stop and cast them, and then they're not really worth it unless you're fighting for a pretty long time. So spellcasters tend to be wary about picking them since they're not sure they'll have a chance to actually use them. The except is if they are really powerful buffs (which are usually self only, see Righteous Might) or unless they are swift action buffs (which are also almost always self only).

    Intimidate is just generally a waste of time anyhow, whether you've got teammates to take advantage of it or not. If you really want to spend 2 characters' turns just to try to get a spell to stick, it's almost always going to be more effective to just have 2 casters and re-cast the spell if it doesn't work the first time. About the only real use is if you have multiple characters using intimidate and can scare enemies into running away outright, but there are still better ways to make them afraid.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Orc in the Playground
     
    PirateCaptain

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    Default Re: Weighing Class Traits

    Quote Originally Posted by Epiphanis View Post
    Is this because DMs are scaling the number of times functions must be performed to the limitations of the multiple-function-but-limited-uses characters? Are parties "calling it a day" the moment the wizard runs low on spells, where a party with a sorcerer could go longer?


    Is it possible that combat is shorter and deadlier in popular play than WotC design intended? Do PCs risk sudden death for a quick kill in preference to a more assured win that takes more rounds?


    Is this because players don't coordinate with each other to the extent the designers intended/expected? Is it because teammates are too unpredicatable?
    1) I do not think it's the DM's scaling, but rather a slight mistake on WoTC's part on determining how the encounters would 'tire out' a prepared caster. Fact is that if played intelligently, prepared casters can easily outlast the 4 encounters a day as advised in the rulebooks. And prepared casters are not neccesarily limited, as the can vastly increase what they can cast through items.

    I wouldn't say that the online community preferes limited abilities. Rather, those limited abilities aren't as limited as they seem sipposed to be, and the online community has recognised this.


    2) Alone, defense may be interesting, but when in a group, protecting yourself will usually just mean that the enemy will just go after the next teammate. In this light, a good offense is far better then a good defense: Once your enemy's defeated, he/she/it can't bring anymore pain around.


    3) Possibly. This would depend on group.
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    Default Re: Weighing Class Traits

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Mann View Post
    The problem with trying to use more encounters is that at higher levels, fighters will run out of hit points before the casters run out of spells. Add into this the fact that it's relatively easy for mages to arrange safe rest (rope trick, magnificent mansion, etc.), and wizards gain a definite advantage.
    If you've got a cleric casting from a wand, you bypass this problem somewhat. At 750 gp, it won't set back anyone's wealth level a whole lot. Wizards can get scrolls, of course, but the DCs on those suck, and they cost a good bit of cash.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Weighing Class Traits

    Quote Originally Posted by brian c View Post
    "buffing" spells are only used by spellcasters when it's a cleric casting it on himself (or herself).
    You lie, sir. One of the party wizards in the campaign I play in buffs my barbarian all the live long day and he then proceeds to plow through the opposition while under the effects of haste, animalistic power, and shield of faith from the cleric cohort. And I assure you, 3d12+30 or more per round hurts pretty much regardless of anything the monsters may have at this level. And he can do it for longer than the wizards can hold out, certainly.
    "Courage is the complement of fear. A fearless man cannot be courageous. He is also a fool." -- Robert Heinlein


  9. - Top - End - #9
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Weighing Class Traits

    "buffing" spells are only used by spellcasters when it's a cleric casting it on himself (or herself).
    I also disagree here. I think a more accurate statement would be that Clerical buffing spells are only used personally.

    Even that falters when you look at spells which last for hours; many clerics are willing to pop a magic vestment spell on multiple people once you get to the level that the spell slot isn't as gold as it was.

    And arcane-wise, there are quite a few solid buffs that people like throwing around. Especially haste, which is in my book, the single spell that makes wizard buffers infinitely better than cleric buffers. Infinitely. My vote for the best third level spell, although it depends on how many melee'rs you have in a party.
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