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    Default Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    This thread is for the three classes from tome of magic, along with the dragonfire adept and warlock because they bare some similarities to each other and to the truenamer. All of them have some magical capabilities as a central mechanic, but in a format distinct from traditional vancian casting.

    Binder (ToM, 8): The binder is a class with access to a variety of demonic pacts that hold a bunch of utility. This was by a significant margin the best part of tome of magic. Notably, for the purposes of this thread, we will likely be ignoring Zyceryll, as it is plausibly tier increasing (in a way that should be evaluated separately).

    Dragonfire Adept (DrM, 24): Sometimes considered the "fixed" dragon shaman, the dragonfire adept is a pretty neat class. You get a pretty decent breath weapon, especially with entangling exhalation, you get a bunch of fancy invocations, and you just generally have some solid stuff to do.

    Shadowcaster (ToM, 109): The shadowcaster isn't as wonky and crappy as the truenamer, but it's still a decent amount of both of those things. Your daily mystery access is so weirdly limited here.

    Truenamer (ToM, 198): Quite possibly the wonkiest class in the game, the truenamer is testament to the fact that skill based casting is a near impossible thing to do right. And, beyond that, it has some weird editing issues. But, as has been sometimes shown, the inability of a truenamer to use their basic class abilities has been overblown somewhat, and what we're left with is a class that mostly consists of usually kinda mediocre at-will abilities that slowly turn into not at-will abilities (though I suppose that means they never were at-will).

    Warlock (CArc, 5)
    :This is the classic alternative magic fellow, shooting a steady stream of variably useful eldritch blasts and packing some pretty useful at-will abilities, including, classically, flight. Also, you get super magic item powers, which is always a good thing to have.




    What are the tiers?

    The simple answer here is that tier one is the best, the home of things on the approximate problem solving scale of wizards, and tier six is the worst, land of commoners. And problem solving capacity is what's being measured here. Considering the massive range of challenges a character is liable to be presented with across the levels, how much and how often does that character's class contribute to the defeat of those challenges? This value should be considered as a rough averaging across all levels, the center of the level range somewhat more than really low and really high level characters, and across all optimization levels (considering DM restrictiveness as a plausible downward acting factor on how optimized a character is), prioritizing moderate optimization somewhat more than low or high.

    A big issue with the original tier system is that, if anything, it was too specific, generating inflexible definitions for allowance into a tier which did not cover the broad spectrum of ways a class can operate. When an increase in versatility would seem to represent a decrease in tier, because tier two is supposed to be low versatility, it's obvious that we've become mired in something that'd be pointless to anyone trying to glean information from the tier system. Thus, I will be uncharacteristically word light here. The original tier system's tier descriptions are still good guidelines here, but they shouldn't be assumed to be the end all and be all for how classes get ranked.

    Consistent throughout these tiers is the notion of problems and the solving thereof. For the purposes of this tier system, the problem space can be said to be inclusive of combat, social interaction, and exploration, with the heaviest emphasis placed on combat. A problem could theoretically fall outside of that space, but things inside that space are definitely problems. Another way to view the idea of problem solving is through the lens of the niche ranking system. A niche filled tends to imply the capacity to solve a type of problem, whether it's a status condition in the case of healing, or an enemy that just has too many hit points in the case of melee combat. It's not a perfect measure, both because some niches have a lot of overlap in the kinds of problems they can solve and because, again, the niches aren't necessarily all inclusive, but they can act as a good tool for class evaluation.

    Tier one: Incredibly good at solving nearly all problems. This is the realm of clerics, druids, and wizards, classes that open up with strong combat spells backed up by utility, and then get massively stronger from there. If you're not keeping up with that core trio of tier one casters, then you probably don't belong here.

    Tier two: We're just a step below tier one here, in the land of classes around the sorcerer level of power. Generally speaking, this means relaxing one of the two tier one assumptions, either getting us to very good at solving nearly all problems, or incredibly good at solving most problems. But, as will continue to be the case as these tiers go on, there aren't necessarily these two simple categories for this tier. You gotta lose something compared to the tier one casters, but what you lose doesn't have to be in some really specific proportions.

    Tier three: Again, we gotta sacrifice something compared to tier two, here taking us to around the level of a swordsage. The usual outcome is that you are very good at solving a couple of problems and competent at solving a few more. Of course, there are other possibilities, for example that you might instead be competent at solving nearly all problems.

    Tier four: Here we're in ranger/barbarian territory (though the ranger should be considered largely absent of ACF's and stuff to hit this tier, as will be talked about later). Starting from that standard tier three position, the usual sweet spots here are very good at solving a few problems, or alright at solving many problems.

    Tier five
    : We're heading close to the dregs here. Tier five is the tier of monks, classes that are as bad as you can be without being an aristocrat or a commoner. Classes here are sometimes very good at solving nearly no problems, or alright at solving a few, or some other function thereof. It's weak, is the point.

    Tier six: And here we have commoner tier. Or, the bottom is commoner. The top is approximately aristocrat. You don't necessarily have nothing in this tier, but you have close enough to it.


    The Threads

    Tier System Home Base


    Tier System Home Base


    The Fixed List Casters: Beguiler, Dread Necromancer, and Warmage


    The Obvious Tier One Classes: Archivist, Artificer, Cleric, Druid, Sha'ir, and Wizard



    The Mundane Beat Sticks (part one): Barbarian, Fighter, Samurai (CW), and Samurai (OA)


    The Roguelikes: Ninja, Rogue, and Scout



    The Pseudo-Druids: Spirit Shaman, Spontaneous Druid, Urban Druid, and Wild Shape Ranger


    The Jacks of All Trades: Bard, Factotum, Jester, and Savant


    The Tome of Battlers: Crusader, Swordsage, and Warblade



    The NPCs: Adept, Aristocrat, Commoner, Expert, Magewright, and Warrior


    The Vaguely Supernatural Melee Folk: Battle Dancer, Monk, Mountebank, and Soulknife



    The Miscellaneous Full Casters: Death Master, Shaman, Shugenja, Sorcerer, and Wu Jen



    The Wacky Magicists: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, and Warlock

    The Rankings

    Binder: Tier three

    Dragonfire Adept: Tier three

    Shadowcaster: Tier four

    Truenamer: Tier five

    Warlock: Tier three

    And here's a link to the spreadsheet.
    Last edited by eggynack; 2018-06-10 at 09:29 PM.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    Ooh I'm excited for the discussion in this one.
    Considering your note on the DFA, I'm now curious which thread will include the Dragon Shaman.
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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    Quote Originally Posted by Zombulian View Post
    Ooh I'm excited for the discussion in this one.
    I am too. Lotsa weird and interesting classes.
    Considering your note on the DFA, I'm now curious which thread will include the Dragon Shaman.
    Planning on shaman, marshal, soulborn, as an aura thing.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    The Truenamer is terrible. Like, really terrible. Core Monk or Soulknife level terrible where it's a plausible candidate for "worst PC class". Easy Tier Five, and fairly low there.

    To start off with, you eventually stop being able to use your abilities at all against level appropriate opposition by 20th level. The DC to hit a CR 20 enemy with an Evolving Mind Utterance is 55. Your check (assuming 20 INT) is +28, which means you succeed if you roll at least ... 27. That's not happening. By way of comparison, a 20th level Fighter with 20 STR hits a Balor (AC 35) on a 10 or better.

    So right off the bat, the class has an expiration date. Not like the Fighter or Barbarian where you just suck a lot, you straight can't do stuff after a certain level.

    Effectively, you have to invest resources in something every other class gets for free. If you don't buy items, spend feats, dip Marshall, or something else, your abilities don't work. Some people will tell you that's fine because people get to make saves against regular spells, but people get to save against your utterances too! Oh, and that crippling DC? It gets bigger if you use utterances more than once.

    For referencer, last time I checked, Troacctid's chart for an average optimization Truenamer (+stat and +skill items, maybe Skill Focus) said that you peak at a 75% chance of success for your first use of an Evolving Mind utterance. That number goes down by 10% every time you succeed.

    So suppose you get your utterances running somehow. Maybe you convinced your DM that Item Familiar is a real feat and you poured everything into one of those. Maybe you just bought a bunch of items that boost your check. Whatever. Now you get to use your utterances, and guess what? They all suck! Would you like to give a single target +2 on attack rolls as a Standard Action? Well, that's one of your first level powers. You can also give them -1 to AC, or heal them a little. And it's not like your high level powers are any better. You can do 10d6 damage a round for two rounds, which is notable for being slightly less damage than an equal level Rogue gets on a single attack (remember to count base weapon damage too). Or instead you can debuff your target's saves.

    There are buffing utterances, which might seem like a viable path, until you realize that they are terrible. You get some buffs that matter (like true seeing), but the durations are crap. true seeing is good because it's fire and forget. If you have to guess when to use sensory focus, it loses the huge advantage of passively countering environmental illusions. You get the ability to give people an extra action, which sounds nice until you realize it takes a standard action, and if you really needed two actions out of that party member, you could have just played a clone.

    Since we're talking about utterances, the elephant in the room: conjunctive gate. It's gate. Is it good? Sure. But it happens at 20th level, and it's also broken as all crap. If you live in a campaign where your DM is going to let you abuse gate, you died 19 levels ago because you're a Truenamer and all your abilities suck if you're allowed to use them at all.

    Or, Jormengand's favorite Utterance: rebuild item. They believe this allows you to take an uncharged wand, snap it, and get back a fully charged wand. This is obvious bunk. The "undamaged" state of an uncharged but broken wand is an uncharged but functional wand. As Beheld pointed out last time we had this debate, if you really believed charge depletion was a form of damage, you wouldn't claim you had to snap the wand to use rebuild item on it. As far as the actual function of the item, it appears to be good for use with Skull Talismans (there are versions in both Complete Arcane and Frostburn) -- potion equivalents that are broken on use. As far as this goes, it's basically buying spell slots. You have to buy the talisman, then if you miss one check to repair it, it's broken. Also, there are limitations and reasonable arguments it doesn't work at all.

    Your power is also profoundly situational. You get your AoE ability (Speak unto the masses) at 17th, which is when real characters have 8th or 9th level spells. Before that, you are basically only effective in a 1v1 fight against a CR = Level enemy. Against more enemies, you can't even theoretically dish out enough hurt to matter. Against a higher CR enemy, you can't effect them reliably. If you aren't doing exactly "four encounters a day against one CR = Level enemy", you look even worse than normal.

    Oh, and the class is horribly edited. archer's eye negates the "penalties for concealment". Concealment does not inflict penalties, it gives a miss chance. Talking about "penalties for concealment" is like talking about "size bonuses to damage" or "armor check penalty to casting".

    To top things off, this is followed up with absolutely no support in later books. At least the Monk gets some ACFs to fix it a little.

    I think that represents all my objections to the Truenamer on the grounds of "it sucks a whole lot". I reserve the right to post more as I remember it though.

    As an aside:
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    The first thing you have to do to fix the Truenamer is give up on skill check based magic. Skill checks in D&D vary too much by optimization (items, spells, various other BS bonuses) and too little by level (two levels is a 10% shift, but it takes you from black tentacles to cloudkill). So that whole thing has got to go.

    The easiest fix for the Truenamer is just to make it a Wizard PrC. Searching ancient tombs for words of power sounds a whole lot like what Wizards do, and "name magic" is a respected form of sorcery in writings both historical and modern. Slap together some combination of knowledge magic, buff spells, planar binding, sound magic, and power word line spells and you're good.

    If you want a base class, I suggest basically the same thing. The main element I'd probably keep from the original is the whole "reversible" deal. Probably blow that up by putting utterances on a recharge timer, but allowing you to skip the timer if you use the reversed utterance. You could give them the same basic shtick as the previous suggestion, but with more magic diversity (because it's supposed to anchor a whole class, not just some guy's character). The key is to make utterances something like enlarge person/reduce person, not +1/-1 to AC. Maybe give them some kind of Metamagic deal, both literally and in the Master of the Five Magics sense where it lets you screw with how magic works.


    Shadowcaster is kind of like a Sorcerer, but your spells are crappier and your learning of them is more restricted. Probably Tier Four. Might be persuaded it scrapes Three with the suggested fixes the author posted.

    Binder seems like it has a whole lot of variety and very little power. Seems like it probably belongs in Tier Four, especially considering that the Rogue is there, and the only satisfying Binder build I've seen relied on stacking together the Sneak Attack vestiges and pretending to be a Rogue. Might go up with the summon monster web vestige, but that seems pretty obscure and is also a very radical change on several levels.

    Warlock seems like it lags casters too much to be very good. Probably Four, maybe Three if someone can show me a compelling build. I assume Dragonfire Adept is similar, but I never really gave it a good look.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    Quote Originally Posted by eggynack View Post
    I am too. Lotsa weird and interesting classes.

    Planning on shaman, marshal, soulborn, as an aura thing.
    Oho smart man
    Quote Originally Posted by Deeds View Post
    Caster backstories require a reason as to why they can cast spells. Wizards study hard to learn spells. Sorcerers often learn of their powers and then hone them through traveling. Clerics use piety to find the gift of spells through the gods or their ideals. Druids shun deodorant until a riding dog appears and they learn Entangle.
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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    So of these I've only really played around with the Binder and Warlock.
    I found the Warlock to be... well what one usually wants to play when one is going for blaster sorts; at which they are fairly competent, and they're so-so at getting other things done with their utility powers and, more importantly, their ability to ignore requirements for magic item crafting.

    The binder i'm more experienced with and feel quite comfortable putting them in tier 3. They can do quite a few things... provided they have enough time to swap their abilities around.

    On an odd note re. binder: I usually gestalt the class with soulmelders... there's some sort of fluffy similarity between both of them in my mind.
    Last edited by Gildedragon; 2017-04-09 at 08:17 PM.
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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    Quote Originally Posted by Cosi View Post
    For referencer, last time I checked, Troacctid's chart for an average optimization Truenamer (+stat and +skill items, maybe Skill Focus) said that you peak at a 75% chance of success for your first use of an Evolving Mind utterance. That number goes down by 10% every time you succeed.
    LOW optimization Truenamer.

    And you're cherry-picking the utterances that are hardest to use. Two of the best utterances on the class's list, Universal Aptitude and Hidden Truth, have essentially a 100% success rate most of the time even in low-op, as do all of the ones that target objects and most of the ones that target areas.

    The Truenamer is a solid 4 most of the time. Maybe 4.5 at worst. You're a competent skillmonkey with a decent amount of support magic.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    Quote Originally Posted by Troacctid View Post
    LOW optimization Truenamer.
    Buying two separate items to get your trick to work is mid OP. It's the equivalent of a Wizard running around with a Headband and a Blessed Book or a Beguiler with a Headband and a Runestaff (or some other list expansion/hole filling item). If we redefine what different levels of optimization mean to pretend classes don't suck, nothing sucks.

    And you're cherry-picking the utterances that are hardest to use. Two of the best utterances on the class's list, Universal Aptitude and Hidden Truth, have essentially a 100% success rate most of the time even in low-op, as do all of the ones that target objects and most of the ones that target areas.
    You have to make a skill check to give you a bonus to a skill check. That doesn't work in time limited situations, the uses per day are limited, and you still haven't solved the problem where you can't do anything in combat.

    The Truenamer is a solid 4 most of the time. Maybe 4.5 at worst. You're a competent skillmonkey with a decent amount of support magic.
    The Rogue is a competent skillmonkey, and also has an effective combat shtick. The Truenamer has neither of those things. Your "support magic" amounts to being slightly worse than just another copy of whatever character you're "supporting".

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    Binder: Tier 3.4. The class is capable at almost every level, and only really experiences an "inadequacy" at the 5-8 range (if focused on pure melee/ranged combat). Once you get out of that choke-zone it is fairly simple to not only be a solid character but to "retool" yourself on the fly. Most of your best class features can be traded out day-by-day at no real penalty; the hardest things to change are feats and items (which can be done on both counts).

    Dragonfire Adept: Tier 4. It's a one-trick pony. Sure the trick is good, but the class has only 1 option as far as encounters go. There is some room for stupidly broken tricks, like blanketing the world in acid for several minutes with Metabreath feats, but those tricks are highly impractical (trying that particular trick results in your character being unable to use its key class feature for several in-game months, if not significantly longer). The class has some methods of keeping up at the higher levels, but it is a very easy class to counter and doesn't have a lot of build variety.

    Shadowcaster: Tier 4.1, possibly Tier 3 with the right optimization. The class has almost no longevity below level 7, at least without Reserve feats (and a DM that allows you to qualify for them). The mid-to-high levels provide some serious options, and online materials add even more versatility. While the mystery selection is lacking, the PrC options are pretty good due to their ability to qualify for PrCs that don't specify Arcane/Divine spells. It also has the single biggest AoE with the longest duration in the game (the Citywalk expansion gave it a stupidly powerful spell). Items that affect spells can, in some cases, directly benefit a Shadowcaster too (Spellguard Rings, for example). The major issue is they completely lack longevity, and a good chunk of their spells are underpowered (some outright worthless). The gems are there, but it takes some work to make it good.

    Truenamer: Tier 5, rock bottom. The only thing stopping it from being Tier 6 is that it can take a Commoner of equal level in a straight-up fight a majority of the time. The utterances are worthless at almost every level, and even the game-breaker doesn't justify the sheer amount of weakness you run into along the way. The utterances not only have a mechanic that makes it impossible to use them past a certain point, it has a mechanic that prevents you from using the same utterance more than once every 30 seconds. They have a built-in "metamagic" benefit, but the DC increase is astronomical in most cases, and the utterances are typically too weak to really care about it. The build options are non-existent; every single Truenamer PrC offers so little to the actual class that it isn't worth trying to multiclass into them, the feats are narrow-minded (or in one case counter-intuitive), and you have to have the same magic items or you just don't function.

    Oh, and the Truespeak Spells offer actual casters more value than a Truenamer. Take that.

    Warlock: Tier 3. I dislike that so many tout a Dragon Magazine option for this class as being a viable option, as a lot of DMs ban that content on principle, but I won't argue that the option is good. As a class itself it can certainly pull its own weight in the low levels, and once you get item crafting the class jumps into campaign-wrecker territory (since there are ways to bypass crafting costs without being an Artificer). A badly built Warlock is a worse archer than a Ranger, but any modicum of optimization can keep it well away from there. The down-sides are the invocations are so limited or poorly-written that it tends to push the builds into a few small routes, and almost all Warlocks end up taking Hellfire Warlock by default. Without the item crafting this class is largely damage-focused, as the utility Invocations aren't level-appropriate most of the time.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    Quote Originally Posted by Cosi View Post
    Buying two separate items to get your trick to work is mid OP. It's the equivalent of a Wizard running around with a Headband and a Blessed Book or a Beguiler with a Headband and a Runestaff (or some other list expansion/hole filling item). If we redefine what different levels of optimization mean to pretend classes don't suck, nothing sucks.
    Really? So a weapon-user buying a magic weapon and magic armor is too good for low-op?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cosi View Post
    You have to make a skill check to give you a bonus to a skill check. That doesn't work in time limited situations, the uses per day are limited, and you still haven't solved the problem where you can't do anything in combat.
    Most skills are not used in time-limited situations.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cosi View Post
    The Rogue is a competent skillmonkey, and also has an effective combat shtick. The Truenamer has neither of those things. Your "support magic" amounts to being slightly worse than just another copy of whatever character you're "supporting".
    Yes, that's why it's worse than all the other support mages, which are mostly Tier 3.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    Quote Originally Posted by Big Fau View Post
    Dragonfire Adept: Tier 4. It's a one-trick pony. Sure the trick is good, but the class has only 1 option as far as encounters go. There is some room for stupidly broken tricks, like blanketing the world in acid for several minutes with Metabreath feats, but those tricks are highly impractical (trying that particular trick results in your character being unable to use its key class feature for several in-game months, if not significantly longer). The class has some methods of keeping up at the higher levels, but it is a very easy class to counter and doesn't have a lot of build variety.
    I think you're being a little unfair to the DFA. I really like their invocation list. Is the only reason you're putting Warlock ahead because of the item crafting (not that that's not valid, I'm just curious)?
    Quote Originally Posted by Deeds View Post
    Caster backstories require a reason as to why they can cast spells. Wizards study hard to learn spells. Sorcerers often learn of their powers and then hone them through traveling. Clerics use piety to find the gift of spells through the gods or their ideals. Druids shun deodorant until a riding dog appears and they learn Entangle.
    Quote Originally Posted by Red Fel View Post
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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    Quote Originally Posted by Troacctid View Post
    Really? So a weapon-user buying a magic weapon and magic armor is too good for low-op?
    AC and attacks are different things. Also, it's a rule of thumb. What do you think a mid-OP Truenamer's item selection looks like?

    Most skills are not used in time-limited situations.
    Skill Monkey skills (Open Lock, Diplomacy, Disable Device, Hide) are often time limited to at least some degree. Also, you still have limited daily uses, and the whole "nothing to do in combat" thing.

    Yes, that's why it's worse than all the other support mages, which are mostly Tier 3.
    It's worse than just not having a support mage and instead having whatever class you wanted to support.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    I consider both Invocation users, and the Binder, to be somewhere around the T3/T4 line. Both have a... passable number of options (certainly compared to noncasters), but they have a hard time finding a good offensive role. (I've seen a Binder and a Warlock in a T2/T3 mid-point group, and both suffered.) The DFA can be a decent debuffer, at least, and the Warlock starts to recover at mid levels with Hellfire Warlock and Eldritch Glaive, but still... Lot of meh. The Binder's supposed versatility suffers because they kind of need to spend feats to make any of their schticks work, and they really hate the first half of the game before they get their second vestige. I'd say T4 but high for all three; maybe even 3.5 ("build dependant?")

    Truenamer is T5-- like the Monk, they're a fundamentally flawed class where you have to fight your own class features to make it functional. It CAN be built into something useful, but it takes way too much effort.
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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    Any given DFA build is going to have multiple tricks pretty easily. The main problem with the class is that there are so few invocations available, most builds end up looking at least 80% identical.

    That one build is good enough for T3 though. Decent skills and utility combined with consistent combat power (mainly with support and crowd control).

    Warlock is very similar, although there's more variety in builds—your character will look pretty different depending on whether you're focusing on Dex, Cha, Str, or Int (all of which are viable). It ranges from low to high Tier 3, but honestly, I don't think it falls to the level of the Barbarian or Ranger even at low-op—it holds up just as well at low levels, and then at high levels it pulls way ahead. If it were just Eldritch Blast: The Class, it would be an easy 4, but it's not. There are a ton of really powerful invocations on its list. I have it at 3.

    Binder is a lot like Warlock, except weirder and harder to use. I think it is worse, although Zceryll is of course broken. Still a 3 though.

    Shadowcaster is just really awkward. Like an Adept, it's practically unplayable at low levels with how few spells per day it has. It scales well enough after 7th level, but the heavy-handed path restrictions are really hard to work with. Oftentimes you can't get a good mystery you want unless you also commit to getting two bad mysteries, which means that although there are some nice ones on the list, most of them are inaccessible to a given build. It's...really awkward. I have it at Tier 4.
    Last edited by Troacctid; 2017-04-09 at 09:35 PM.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    Well my first points will differentiate the DFA and the warlock

    -both get at will abilities
    -both get invocations
    -some invocations are pretty damn good
    -both have an unusually reliable mode of attack (touch attack for one, square attack for the other)

    but

    eldritch blast is easily optimized to deal with a single powerful enemy through eldritch glaive, even if you don't pick that particular shape a magic item (a rod I think) can grant it to you so it's not a major investment in resources

    the warlock also gets to take 10 on UMD rolls, essentially giving it reliable access to any spell if he really needs it. Only the artificer can do the same.

    finally warlock invocations are just stronger than a DFA's and they come on earlier :

    -black tentacle
    -nightmare made real
    -the dead walk
    -baleful utterance
    -spiderwalk

    while the DFA has some utility invocations (like humanoid shape or draconic knowledge) their use pale when compared to something as versatile as the dead walk or chilling tentacles

    Another problem is that it's fairly simple to improve a warlock's eldritch blast damage

    -knowledge devotion
    -chasuble of power
    -sneak attack damage (martial study + martial stance)
    -a wand of hunter's eye (which you can create yourself after level 12)
    -psionic shot, greater psionic shot, psionic meditation

    Even if your DM rules that metabreath feats apply to DFA's abilities there are not many ways to actually increase your damage and evasion is a real problem for you. The eldritch blast does not have this issue, it always works and creatures capable of evading a touch attack from a medium BAB are quite rare.

    For these reasons I would rate the DFA slightly lower than a warlock, in this case tier 4 seems appropriate.
    As for the warlock, though it's fairly easy to break the campaign with item crafting, that ability comes on pretty late so I would rate it at tier 3.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    Quote Originally Posted by Soranar View Post
    Well my first points will differentiate the DFA and the warlock

    -both get at will abilities
    -both get invocations
    -some invocations are pretty damn good
    -both have an unusually reliable mode of attack (touch attack for one, square attack for the other)

    but

    eldritch blast is easily optimized to deal with a single powerful enemy through eldritch glaive, even if you don't pick that particular shape a magic item (a rod I think) can grant it to you so it's not a major investment in resources
    Entangling Exhalation makes your breath weapon an extremely potent battlefield control tool that also deals decent damage, and it comes online at level 1 instead of level 8.

    Quote Originally Posted by Soranar View Post
    the warlock also gets to take 10 on UMD rolls, essentially giving it reliable access to any spell if he really needs it. Only the artificer can do the same.
    DFA has UMD as a class skill too, so it's not like it can't UMD. It's obviously not as good at it, but on the other hand, it has an extra 2 skill points per level, which goes a long way toward making up for it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Soranar View Post
    finally warlock invocations are just stronger than a DFA's and they come on earlier :

    -black tentacle
    -nightmare made real
    -the dead walk
    -baleful utterance
    -spiderwalk

    while the DFA has some utility invocations (like humanoid shape or draconic knowledge) their use pale when compared to something as versatile as the dead walk or chilling tentacles
    The Dead Walk is admittedly overpowered, but the DFA has plenty of good invocations too. Draconic Knowledge, Beguiling Influence, and Darkness are great at least; Charm, Humanoid Shape, Voracious Dispelling, and Walk Unseen are great at lesser; and Chilling Fog at greater is miles better than Chilling Tentacles, I don't know how you can say it's worse. All these are as good as or better than Warlock invocations of the same level, so the DFA does just fine in the head-to-head up until darks. DFA darks are admittedly pretty meh.

    Quote Originally Posted by Soranar View Post
    Another problem is that it's fairly simple to improve a warlock's eldritch blast damage

    -knowledge devotion
    -chasuble of power
    -sneak attack damage (martial study + martial stance)
    -a wand of hunter's eye (which you can create yourself after level 12)
    -psionic shot, greater psionic shot, psionic meditation
    Knowledge Devotion is better on DFAs than it is on Warlocks because of Draconic Knowledge. Likewise, Chasuble of Fell Power does the same thing as Dragon Spirit Cincture, except it costs more and doesn't give a bonus on attack rolls. And if you want to burn feats for limited-use damage boosts, metabreath feats are a thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Soranar View Post
    Even if your DM rules that metabreath feats apply to DFA's abilities there are not many ways to actually increase your damage and evasion is a real problem for you. The eldritch blast does not have this issue, it always works and creatures capable of evading a touch attack from a medium BAB are quite rare.
    Almost no monsters have evasion. It'll hardly ever come up. I would say it's certainly balanced out by your ability to ignore spell resistance, concentration, and anything that prevents you from using somatic components—all of which can be problematic for Warlocks, especially early on. Not to mention ignoring arcane spell failure, which is always nice.

    Quote Originally Posted by Soranar View Post
    For these reasons I would rate the DFA slightly lower than a warlock, in this case tier 4 seems appropriate.
    I've played both classes pretty extensively and I have them about the same if they're single-classed. Warlock is better when you account for prestige class compatibility, but we're not worrying about that here.
    Last edited by Troacctid; 2017-04-09 at 10:48 PM.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    Quote Originally Posted by Zombulian View Post
    I think you're being a little unfair to the DFA. I really like their invocation list. Is the only reason you're putting Warlock ahead because of the item crafting (not that that's not valid, I'm just curious)?
    The Warlock has significantly more support. That's the main reason.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    I´ve had the opportunity to play shadowcasters in three campaigns back then, one plain vanilla, one Noctumancer with the creeping darkness wiz to shadow conversion option, one with dipping into Swordsage and Jade Phoenix Mage. It´s certainly an interesting class with a slightly different learning curve when you know regular spells known mechanics, but it can be fun and rewarding. Runestaff required, tho. I´d put it smack in the middle of T3 territory, as each "set" of mysteries has some kind of "+" and "-" to it, like a buff and debuff, or damage or healing, which´ll lead to be able to tackle a broad range of situations.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    The main problem with the truenamer has always been that the truenaming checks don't scale with level, because your skill bonus gets +1 per level and the DC gets +2 per level of your enemy. Now there are two things to consider. First, while this difference is problematic at high levels, it is not really noticeable at low levels - and it turns out low-level campaigns are vastly more common than high-level ones. It seems unfair to discount a class at level 5 because its performance at level 20 would be lacking. Second, bear in mind that the crafting rules allow you to make an item that gives +20 to a skill check pre-epic, which basically eliminates the difference all by itself.

    Once we have dealt with the DC issue, what is left of the truenamer is a spellcaster with an admittedly poor list, but still a decent amount of versatility. Yes, this could have been written better, but so could a number of commonly used feats and prestige classes. I'd call this Tier 4.

    Oh and as mentioned by other posters, T3 for warlock and binder, T4 for shadowcaster and DFA.
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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    Warlock and DFA: These would probably be at least on the lower end of T4 with just their main damage option, but the addition of some very handy invocations for each makes them to me an easy T3. Even if every single T3 build with those classes had nearly identical invocation selection, would that really be too dissimilar from the same spells showing up at the top of every T1 wizard's spellbook wishlist? Differences in power / versatility / splat support between warlock and DFA also seem irrelevant to me, since neither is more comparable to an adept than a warmage.

    Binder: Being "very good at solving a couple of problems and competent at solving a few more" sounds straight up a binder's alley. A versatile and customizable class, you're still kind of required to somewhat specialize (at least according to my definition of "moderate optimization" in this context), but that leaves you more comparable to a wildshape ranger, warmage, or initiator than one of the roguelikes or a barbarian. T3.

    Truenamer: What a crazy class. So at least we can all agree that the design is at least wonky, but it's really not utterly broken, as in legitimately unplayable. I definitely wouldn't recommend it to a newbie, but if you're willing to put the same amount of thought into one as you would a non-fixed-list caster, it's really not that bad. I haven't played one at 20th level, but my experiences playing one straight left me feeling like I was playing a noticeably less-adept bard or more "supernatural sage" and less "stabbity stealth" roguelike. My vote: T4, with admittedly, a floor that can easily drop a tier.

    Shadowcaster: One is more likely to sway me on this one, as I can only go by theory, having never seen one in play. On paper, the limits on mysteries seem to prevent anything higher than T4, but perhaps some obvious optimization I don't know or can't remember makes this higher.
    Last edited by MHCD; 2017-04-11 at 11:45 PM.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    An interesting question for truenamers, one that has hounded the class, is how we should class these items it needs. Because, yes, the class does need these items, but should we begrudge them that? As Troacctid has noted, we don't turn our noses at martial classes because they generally need a magic weapon and armor to operate (we turn our noses for other reasons), so why do so for the amulet of the silver tongue and some other stuff? The clear answer is that we don't necessarily see these skill items as existing on that same level. Weapons are considered in some fashion fundamental, while the amulet is a level or two above that, at incredibly useful or very useful, statuses that would incur more of an effective penalty if they're required. But that's the thing in itself, I think. If the class needs this item, then shouldn't that make the item fundamental, making this "The class needs the item to operate" thing a non-object problem-wise? I'd say it depends on the item, on how obvious and clearly associated with the class it is. The amulet seems like a no brainer. It's in the same section of the same book, clearly intended for this exact purpose. A competence item? Maybe a bit less fundamental, and an item familiar, quite a lot less than that. But there's clearly some level of optimization we should straightforwardly expect, and that level allows for a good amount, perhaps not a massive amount, of use of the class' main ability. And reasonable optimization would likely grant consistent access, as Zaq's guide has noted.

    So that leaves the main question of the truenamer what exactly you're doing with the abilities. And the answer, I think, is something like tier four's worth. There's some nice utility, and some semi-useful combat stuff. I'd take this above a monk any day. Sure, the abilities are wonky as all hell and limited in ways they really shouldn't be, but the utterances are better than they're sometimes given credit for, with a couple of actually decent effects scattered about. This is worse than a warlock, but not insanely worse, at least before the item stuff.

    So, the others. Warlock seems about 3.5 to me. It's sometimes been argued for tier three, and sometimes for tier four, and both sides on this one seem reasonable. Shadowcaster, I gots nothing. The binder for three rating strikes me as fair. Those abilities are very good. And I don't see much call to move DFA from tier three. I think I'm pretty static on truenamer and binder, but I could see about a .5 of wiggle room on warlock and DFA. Warlock for three and DFA 3.5 wouldn't be crazy by any means.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    A typical DFA build is about as good as what I would expect from a typical Warlock build. I have a hard time putting them in different tiers; they are just too close in power level.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    Binder: T3, but only because of the fairly limited choices per day and the relatively long recharge on signature abilities.

    Dragonfire Adept: T3. A lack of splat support really hurts here.

    Shadowcaster: T4. I wish this could be higher, but...

    Truenamer: T5

    Warlock: T2. They have a range of abilities about as wide as a fixed-list caster, and no chance of ever burning out any of them. It's on the low end, but a greater amount of splat support puts it here IMO over the DFA.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    Quote Originally Posted by eggynack View Post
    There's some nice utility, and some semi-useful combat stuff. I'd take this above a monk any day.
    But you can do *both*. Believe it or not, Disciple of the Word is pretty fun to play.
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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    Regular warlock builds tend to be t3-t4.
    But.. if we leave actual table builds and go into TO territory it gets ugly.

    Max UMD and get some crafting skills. Scribe Scrolls and you have access to all spells.
    Cheat WBL and start to craft contingent spells, either with (gr.) Arcane Fusion or divine spells.
    Make a lil minion army (golems, undead, effigy..) and craft contingent spells for any situation that might come up.
    Best dip Blood Magus 4 to get the special crafting skills (scribe scrolls on your skin, brew potions in your blood) so that you don't leave loot and it can't be stolen.

    Imho if you went all out, you could push a warlock easily on T1 - T0.5 lvl. On the other side, I guess such a build will never be really played (by players^^).
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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    Quote Originally Posted by weckar View Post
    Warlock: T2. They have a range of abilities about as wide as a fixed-list caster, and no chance of ever burning out any of them. It's on the low end, but a greater amount of splat support puts it here IMO over the DFA.
    This rating seems very very far off. Better than the DFA? Sure, arguably the case. As good as a dread necromancer or beguiler, the currently lowest ranked tier two classes? Not even remotely close. I'm very doubtful they're even as good as a bard. This is really a thing you need to justify (speaking as an arbitrary thread participant here, rather than in a moderation sense).

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    I genuinely believe the warlock sits right there with the beguiler and the dread necro in practical play, but all I have to back that up is about 6 years of table experience with the three classes. This is UNLESS we include Sand Shaper/Rainbow servant shenanigans as fairly rate-able when talking about the fixed list casters in which case I will concede warlock to a T3.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    Quote Originally Posted by weckar View Post
    I genuinely believe the warlock sits right there with the beguiler and the dread necro in practical play, but all I have to back that up is about 6 years of table experience with the three classes. This is UNLESS we include Sand Shaper/Rainbow servant shenanigans as fairly rate-able when talking about the fixed list casters in which case I will concede warlock to a T3.
    Nah, we're not talking that stuff. It just seems off anyway. Especially regarding the beguiler. Like, I'ma do a straight spells to invocations comparison here at a few levels. Not a perfect comparison, but I think it captures a lot of what I'm talking about.

    First level: Warlocks get a single invocation. There are solid choices here, but the beguiler gets 14 different high quality spells where some of them may even be better that that one invocation, so it doesn't really matter that much. The beguiler wins, and they win by a lot. Especially when you consider they also get 0th's. They're not hurting too much for daily uses either. Sure, the warlock can summon swarms, or shatter objects, or use diplomacy, but the beguiler can charm foes, and create silent images, and stun folks, and understand languages. And is better than or.

    Fifth level: The warlock has three invocations. All least. The beguiler has moved up to second level spells, and they have a lot of them. Assuming the warlock ignores eldritch blast modifications, they can now do all three of the things I just listed, which is neat, but the beguiler can still do all that stuff I said they can do, and more cause I didn't list all of it, and even more because second level beguiler spells are great. There are 19 of them, and there's still a ton if you ditch the image and mind-affecting stuff. Which you don't, because you don't have to ditch anything, because you're a beguiler. Seems like a super clear win for the beguiler.

    Sixth level: This one is close to the last, but I'm doing it also, cause it's where warlocks get a lesser invocation. It's not necessarily a warlock advantage level though. What are you choosing here that matches up with access to third level spells? The dead walk is great. Fell flight is great. Neither is as good as that list of 20 spells. Not when that list features dispel magic, glibness, haste, slow, and suggestion. The invocation can arguably beat two or maybe three of those third level spells. I can't see it beating 20.

    Tenth level: The warlock still only has lesser invocations. Three of them now. The beguiler has gained two full levels of spells. Good ones. Solid fog is on the list of fourths, and dominate person is on the list of fifths. Again, what two lesser invocations would you rather gain than these two spell levels? Consider, those two lesser invocations are actually individually worse than the one you got at sixth, or you would have taken it at sixth, and they are each being asked to fight a whole spell level, each higher than the one from before. It's an even worse comparison than fifth or sixth level.

    Fifteenth level: Between tenth and now, the warlock gained three greater invocations. The beguiler again gained two spell levels. Compared to a sorcerer, these spell levels are putting you seriously behind your earlier better than sorcerer position. Compared to a warlock? I seriously doubt it. You get to use black tentacles, a third level spell, maybe noxious blast, for some SoL action, and just pick a third one, I suppose. Whatever it is, I can't imagine it does better than greater dispel magic (the warlock can get that too, but at way higher opportunity cost), shadow walk, true seeing, ethereal jaunt, and project image.

    Twentieth: Beguilers can use advanced learning to pick ice assassin. Also, they have foresight and time stop. Nothing the warlock can do is remotely close.

    So, I can't see it. Imbue item is nice, but I can't see that coming close to making up the gap that is just having spells to cast. Eldritch blast is a decent source of damage, but beguiler spells are frequently great in combat, and spells that are great in combat seem better than eldritch blast's decent damage. You can maybe optimize the warlock better, but what I've been talking about so far, in beguiler terms, is just out of the box stuff. Aside from the ice assassin thing. The second you start optimizing, the beguiler does too. And that means stuff like arcane disciple, or generally efficient use of advanced learning. The beguiler has a higher floor, and greater marginal utility from optimization. Warlocks advance super slow, and they get a tiny number of these invocations. Beguilers advance quickly, and have a massive variety of spells at all levels. Maybe there's an advantage in endurance, but the beguiler gets great spells/day, so that advantage has to vanish pretty quickly.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    One thing to remember with Truenamers is that not all combats are going to be against one enemy of equal CR - two enemies drops it down to CR-2, or a -4 to the DC, and four enemies drops it down to CR-4, or a -8 DC. A sixth-level low-op Truenamer fighting an Orc has a +15ish bonus (9 ranks + 3 INT + 3 Skill Focus) against DC 16, and appropriately mops them up. (As does the Fighter, of course - this is the rare situation where Cleave is useful.)

    On the other hand, stronger encounters are even worse for the Truenamer. The reasonably deadly CR+2 encounter is +4 to the DC, and those "you should run away" CR+5 encounters are +10 to the DC - the Truenamer is reduced to plinking with a crossbow, if that.


    Let's consider the low-op Truenamer: 15 intelligence from the array, human or other flavorful non-INT race (hello, iconic half-elf Truenamer!), Skill Focus as a feat because it's, like, +3 to hit and that's three times as good as Weapon Focus. Truespeak is maxed out because that's the least complicated option.

    Let's also consider the low-op Fighter: 15 strength from the array, not a half-orc since the DM is old-school and plays up the racism, Weapon Focus line is a go.

    Neither gets magic items, because the DM is stingy and dislikes Magic Marts, and in any case Weapon Focus outweighs the bonus of the random weapon drops - +2/+4 beats even a +2 weapon, after all, and if they ever run into anything with DR/Magic you can pull out your backup +1 dagger.

    They got a +2 INT item once - they gave it to the Fighter, since they needed it more to counterbalance that 8 INT.

    And hey, let's throw a fireball wizard into the mix as well. What the hay. 15 INT, no INT bonus from race because there's no such thing among the core races, (Greater) Spell Focus(Evocation). Focusing on Reflex saves for the moment, because Tim the Enchanter doesn't care much for the other saves.

    Also, let's say that Player's Roll All The Dice for consistency's sake. And let's break out the good old Optimization By The Numbers chart, and do an old-fashioned thing by making a chart with what number you need To Hit Armor Class 0 whatever numbers we come up with.

    LVL
    Truespeak
    DC
    To Hit
    Attack
    av.AC
    TH
    m.AC
    TH
    Save
    av.Ref
    TH
    m.Ref
    TH
    1 9(SF) 17 8
    4(WF) 16 12
    23 19
    4(SF) 13 8
    17 12
    2 10 19 9
    5 16 11
    23 18
    4 15 10
    21 16
    3 11 21 10
    6 17 11
    23 17
    6(GSF) 15 9
    20 14
    4 13(+1INT) 23 10
    8(+1STR) 16 8
    20 12
    7(+1INT) 16 9
    20 13
    5 14 25 11
    9 18 9
    25 16
    8 16 8
    24 16
    6 15 27 12
    10 19 9
    29 19
    8 17 9
    23 15
    7 16 29 13
    11 19 8
    25 14
    9 17 8
    30 21
    8 17 31 14
    13(GWF) 20 7
    27 14
    9 18 9
    25 16
    9 18 33 15
    14 22 8
    29 15
    10 20 10
    33 23
    10 19 35 16
    15 23 8
    33 18
    10 19 9
    30 20
    11 20 37 17
    16 24 8
    29 13
    11 21 10
    36 25
    12 22(+2INT) 39 17
    18(+2STR) 22 4
    28 10
    12(+2INT) 20 8
    23 11
    13 23 41 18
    19 28 9
    32 13
    13 20 7
    25 12
    14 24 43 19
    20 27 7
    35 15
    13 22 9
    24 11
    15 25 45 20
    21 30 9
    34 13
    14 21 7
    25 11
    16 26 47 21
    22 32 10
    42 20
    14 24 10
    27 13
    17 27 49 22
    23 28 5
    34 12
    15 22 7
    26 11
    18 28 51 23
    24 33 9
    37 13
    15 26 11
    35 20
    19 29 53 24
    25 36 11
    38 13
    15 27 12
    31 16
    20 31(+2INT) 55 24
    27(+2STR) 37 10
    40 13
    16(+2INT) 29 13
    40 24

    It doesn't look all that good for the low-op "low-magic" (note:actually just no magic items, Wizards and Dragons are still things) Truenamer. Although, well, for level 1-6 they seem pretty on-par with Wizards as far as success chance goes. They also don't run into anyone who's just flat-out immune until level 15, while Wizards have them show up as early as level 7. (What CR7 monster has a +19 Relex save, anyhow?)

    Also interesting to note: the Fighter third (-10) attack never really becomes relevant against high-AC monsters, and the fourth (-15) only ever hits the average equal-CR monster on level 17. I guess it's meant to emulate old-timey "the Fighter gets multiple attacks against weak foes" mob-clearing stuff, huh.

    Now, once you include magic items things change a lot. The Fighter gets up to +5 to hit (+3 if Weapon Focus is different, +7 if Bane is relevant, etc. etc.), and the Truenamer gets a +10 bonus that helps bring the level 10+ numbers back down to a more manageable 50%ish level.
    And the Wizard gets to target multiple saves anyhow, and Fireball still does partial damage on a successful save, so the high-Reflex enemies are less of an issue than they may seem on paper.


    I'm going to tentatively vote Tier 4 for the Truenamer - mostly at the very least I believe it to be better than the Savant.
    This is conditional on being able to get the Amulet of the Silver Tongue, though - if you can't, at high levels you're resorting to Universal Aptitude, AoE/item effects, and self-buffs. Affecting critters when you need to roll 19+ is extremely unreliable. (On a related note, it's interesting that a 50%ish expected hit rate kind of lines up with Reversed Words of Nurturing lasting for two turns.)

    If nothing else, the Truenamer is pretty great at knowledge checks. That's a semi-useful niche, I guess.

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Ogre in the Playground
    Join Date
    Nov 2010

    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Binder, Dragonfire Adept, Shadowcaster, Truenamer, Warlock

    I agree that on paper the beguiler outpaces the warlock at every level. In practice, though, I think there is a psychological element at play: Where the warlock never needs to hold back his highest level abilities "just in case", a beguiler could very much do so to its own detriment (or fire off too early in the other extreme). The fact that a warlock CAN pop up these high-level abilities whenever (and they are not that much worse than the ones a beguiler gets a couple times per day) still does not change my vote.
    Last edited by weckar; 2017-04-10 at 06:25 AM.

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