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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    Default Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Here's a weird batch of classes. The auramancers. They gots auras. They ain't all that great. Go nuts.

    Divine Mind (CPsi, 9): While ostensibly psionic in nature, the divine mind really doesn't have that much in the way of psionics to speak of. It does have some mediocre psychic auras though.

    Dragon Shaman (PHB II, 11): Like the dragonfire adept, this class is dragon themed. Unlike the dragonfire adept, this class is... less good. Also unlike the dragonfire adept, this class has auras and such.

    Marshal (MiniHB, 11): This one is kinda the skill monkey of the group, with auras a bit oriented around that goal. Has a couple of cool abilities too, but, y'know, not that cool.

    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


    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 Slow Casting Melee Folk: Duskblade, Hexblade, Paladin, Ranger, Sohei, and Spellthief


    The Pseudo-Clerics: Evangelist, Favored Soul, Healer, Mystic, and Spontaneous Cleric

    The Rankings

    Divine Mind: Tier five

    Dragon Shaman: Tier five

    Marshal: Tier five

    And here's a link to the spreadsheet.
    Last edited by eggynack; 2018-09-11 at 02:10 PM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Wait, have you been posting tiers pre-voting the whole time or is that a mistake?

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Quote Originally Posted by Luccan View Post
    Wait, have you been posting tiers pre-voting the whole time or is that a mistake?
    The latter. I have to think that none of these will land in tier two. Three is pretty unlikely as well, really.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Marshals are weird. Not only do they suffer from a massive dropoff in effectiveness as they level, but they're also actually really good force multipliers at low levels. The minor auras are definitely the most exploitable feature, and you can do a lot of divergent stuff with them. Stand near a bunch of powerful casters and give them SR cracking bonuses (presumably while they bodyguard you), stand near a bunch of level 1 nothings and give them UMD bonuses to use wands, stand in any old party and hand out a giant amount of +initiative, really there are a lot of pretty reasonable possibilities.

    The Major auras by contrast are very disappointing just because they advance so slowly, never really becoming all that relevant compared to your character level. While the minor auras really shine early at least, Major auras always feel sort of lackluster. In lower OP games where the PCs aren't being spammed with Conviction (which overlaps) the + to all saves option will always be pretty good at least; outside that parties are going to have to make some effort to all use your major aura effectively.

    Grant move action would be worse, but what were you doing with your standard action anyway, you're a Marshal! This is kind of like a worse Dimension Step, which I consider to be a pretty reasonable 3rd level spell.

    Really as we all already knew, the Marshal's passive game isn't bad, the problem is just that it has absolutely zero active game. I'm not voting yet, but I'm feeling T5 kinds of feelings.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Marshals are good faces, no question: 4+Int skill points, pretty much all the key skills, high Charisma and the option to double said bonus. With Motivate Strength, they can be a decent tripper; with Motivate Charisma they can do a solid Intimidate build. Heck, you could probably do a decent Knowledge Devotion archer build, even-- Charming the Arrow, Motivate Int, Motivate Ardor or Steady Hand... Cha to Dex can help you with the sneaking, they get good weapons and armor and almost a full BAB... they're not fantastic at anything, they don't really have the feats to specialize in more than one thing, but they're a decent (if boring) enough base and all-arounder that I'd feel comfortable putting them at Tier 4.

    Divine Minds... I admit that I've never seen one in play, but they're certainly not T6 trash, especially if we assume the Mind's Eye upgrades are around. The Auras aren't great, but they aren't nothing; Perception is always useful to have around, and Attack gets you back to about a full BAB. You get Turn Undead via ACF; you get manifesting that's... probably around Paladin/Ranger level; your get slightly higher levels and it's easier to buy more power points, but you don't get unique low-level powers like they do. It's probably somewhere around the T4/T5 level. It starts damn low (you're basically a Warrior at 1st level), but unlike a lot of low-tier classes I think it picks up at higher levels instead of fading. Call it Tier 5, maybe even 4.5.

    Dragon Shamans are bad. They can deliver a stacked metabreath nuke, but so can any class who's a Dragonborn. They don't get the bonuses to use a weapon, they don't get a strong enough breath weapon to rely on it, they can't do much healing, they can't do much in the way of skills... Tier 5, and low in the tier.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Dragon Shaman is a benchmark 5 for me (along with Knight). The class is about the exact power level that I associate with the tier. Frontloaded with no scaling and very little in the way of useful abilities or features.

    Marshal is also frontloaded, but the stuff it gets is a lot more useful. Traditionally it's a dip, but the single-class Marshal does have a surprising amount of versatility with bonuses to lots of various things, allowing it to serve as kind of a quasi-Factotum without the spells...sort of. Not exactly. Well, anyway, it can do things. I think the class is at least on par with Barbarian, and better than edge classes like Fighter, so I give it a 4.

    Divine Mind is bad, but it's actually better than other T5 classes because it actually has some scaling. Combine that with a pretty legit ACF option and I think it gets up to 4.5 (but not all the way to 4, that's pushing it).

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Marshal is half of the Nanobot TO build, which is based on Aid Another stacking. Some other class generates a pile of cheap Diminutive minions, the Marshal motivates the minions for +9 to anything and the minions autopass their Aid Another check to give the Marshal a +2 bonus each. The result is a Marshal with triple digit skill checks.

    Marshal is the best option as the group-buff component because they can enable practically any application of Aid Another, and because they spend no daily resources to do so.

    This ability scales down into the realm of PO. A 2 player Marshall+Minionmancer combo can have the versatility expected of a full party, and in a normal party it doesn't take much effort (aura plus party plus a single summon monster casting) to get a sizable (~+20) skill or ability check bonus.
    Last edited by Bucky; 2017-04-30 at 02:27 PM.
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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    All three of these classes are fairly dull to play (perhaps an understatement) simply because passive aura abilities don't let you feel like you've accomplished much of anything. And then we have the problem that the majority of the aura effects are, well, tiny. They scale way the hell too slowly. But let's get tiering.

    Marshal: This is arguably the best of the three for a one-level dip, but of course, tiers aren't about dips. Minor auras tend to be far nicer than major auras just because, well, they're bigger (major auras hit +4 at ECL 20, but it's possible to have a +4 minor aura as early as level 1 if you're CHA-primary), and minor auras tend to actually apply to more interesting things, like giant swathes of skills. The good news is that the Marshal is reasonably front-loaded, so you get the good stuff fast. The bad news is, well, the Marshal is front-loaded, so every level you take just gets less and less interesting. Especially because they have the "lack of gating" problem, meaning that you pick from the same list of options for your entire career (so you pick the good stuff first, and then the less good stuff, and then the way less good stuff, and then the bad stuff, and every pick is incrementally less valuable, but the class treats them as being equal).

    Grant Move Action is very situational, but it does have the potential to actually be fairly powerful in a melee-heavy group. Setting allies up for a charge or a full attack is actually kind of a game-changer if most of your team is based around hitting things in the face. But it comes late and scales horribly, and again, it's super situational (not only do you have to have allies who can take advantage of it, but it also won't automatically be effective in every encounter). It is a full move action rather than the ability to move your speed, but 3.5 doesn't really have too much that can be done with a standalone move action other than moving. (I guess certain allies can gain psionic focus, if they have the right feat?)

    The ACF from Dragon Magic gives them different auras, but it doesn't really make them especially powerful or interesting. It's not going to change the tier.

    Other than Grant Move Action, the Marshal has no in-class use for their standard actions, so they're assumed to be making regular attacks. They do, at least, get heavy armor and martial weapons, though they only get medium BAB. Their auras benefit them as well, but it's not really possible to use your own auras alone to get you up to "highly effective" when you've got medium BAB and nothing else.

    They get more skills and more skill points than the average beatstick, and their auras do help a bit with skills, but simply adding two stats to a skill (even to a lot of skills) doesn't really impress me all that much.

    So, I rank Fighters as T5 and Barbarians as T4. I don't think the Marshal has the combat power of either class, and while they have a little more out-of-combat utility than the Fighter, I don't think they get enough utility to close that gap. And the fact that they have seriously diminishing returns on level investment really, really grates. I don't think I can rate them higher than T5. If we were looking at dips, it'd be another matter, but a straight-class Marshal is honestly kind of baffling.

    I'm honestly wondering if I need to start looking at T6, which is where I chucked the Soulknife. Level 1 is a bit of a distortion, since a Marshal dip is welcome, but again, every level gets worse and worse simply because you aren't actually getting anything new or useful, minus a 1/day trick at ECL 8 that then scales way too slowly to matter. It'd be a high T6 (obviously, since low T6 is home to the NPC classes that truly get no features or abilities), but I'm kind of feeling like the Marshal actually doesn't bring as much oomph to the table as a Fighter or a Monk. Sure, they're better than a Commoner, but so is a Soulknife, and I think the Soulknife is T6. If we're actually looking at a 20-level career, I don't think a Marshal can match a Fighter or even a PHB-only Paladin. I kind of hate to say it, but I think the Marshal is T6. I might be able to be convinced to go as high as 5.5, but no higher. My vote is T6, at least for now.

    Dragon Shaman: I hate basically everything about this class. First, I've never been fond of the whole "OMG DRAGONDRAGONDRAGON" fluff, but even if we accept that, the only major ability that they get that has anything to do with dragons is the weak breath weapon. Dragons don't really have buffing auras or Lay On Hands or anything like that. So I don't really understand what niche the DS is meant to fill, either by fluff or by crunch.

    Let's be objective, though. First, we've got some auras. There's the lack-of-gating problem again, but at least the auras are halfway interesting? Vigor is well-known for being one of the only ways to get (sorta kinda) all-day fast healing at early levels without cheese, though of course it's limited. Energy has synergy with other abilities, though that's best when you're not taking DS to 20. But of course, all the bonuses are still generally tiny and forgettable.

    The ACF that gives them a least invocation in place of an aura is pretty much a must-take. The fact that they only get one is a major bummer, especially since there's a lot of pressure to take Endure Exposure to make your breath weapon friendly (at least if your breath weapon is powerful enough to notice). Beyond Endure Exposure, though, Magic Insight never really goes out of style, Draconic Knowledge is at least a whole lot of numerical bonuses (even if it's still only +numbers rather than +options), and there are some other decent choices as well. A small boon, but a noticeable one.

    The "little features" (Skill Focus, Draconic Adaptation etc.) are just that—little. They're basically flavor ribbons, and they don't really factor into tier discussions. I did once see a really clever Iron Chef build that used Draconic Adaptation way better than it had any right to be used, but that's kind of the exact opposite of a DS 20 character.

    Then we get to the breath weapon. It's mildly amusing to see the devs' collective progression from "holy crap, breath weapons are rare and super-special and must be ridiculously tightly controlled!" (half-dragon, Dragon Samurai) to "I guess you can maybe have access to a breath weapon, but we're still going to keep it on a leash and not make it easy to get or use" (Dragon Shaman) to "yeah, sure, this is just an attack like any other, so have fun with it, and you won't really have to invest much to get access to it" (dragonborn, Dragonfire Adept), but that doesn't mean that I actually want to use any of the restricted ones. But, well, here we are. The DS's breath weapon is on a recharge timer that effectively means you can only rely on getting it maybe twice per encounter at best, and it's not actually that strong. The shape cannot be adjusted on the fly, and it's not very many dice of damage. The fact that it does have a built-in recharge timer does mean that it qualifies for metabreath feats, but unless you plan on stacking them an arbitrarily large number of times and ending up with a city-destroying breath weapon usable once per month, they aren't actually that interesting, and they do make it so that your breath weapon is basically an encounter power (so it gives you something to do on turn 1, but nothing much to do after that). I don't care too much for metabreath feats on a practical level. Entangling Exhalation is a nice debuff at the cost of damage, but unless I missed a retcon in Dragon Magic or something, you have to invest a feat or a racial choice to get the Dragonblood subtype (DFAs, the traditional users of EnEx, get the Dragontouched feat for free and therefore automatically qualify, but the DS gets no such bone thrown to them), and you have to have the breath weapon before you can take EnEx, so it can't come online before you get your level 6 feat if you're relying on the DS's breath weapon to qualify.

    Finally, we've got Touch of Vitality, which I guess isn't terrible? I'm not convinced how much healing you'll really get out of it (you're kind of MAD, after all), and healing isn't really a great primary class feature, but at least the ability to remove conditions (like dazed, which is difficult to get rid of) is nice, and you do get double the amount that a Paladin gets (though I'm not sure if feat support makes a difference there, since I've never made a Paladin who cares about LoH). The fact that the Vigor aura exists is both synergistic and anti-synergistic; Vigor and Touch of Vitality provide the DS with a way to keep the party's HP topped up that's markedly different from how a Cleric or other traditional healer handles things, which is kind of nice. However, the fact that Vigor will (slowly) do half of the job for free means that you don't really want to be using ToV in combat unless it's an emergency, which kind of means that you're being penalized for using one of your class abilities during a fight. We can talk about whether combat healing is ever really worth it, but it's not good class design to (indirectly) punish a DS for using a DS ability rather than a basic attack on their turn. When I play a class, I want to feel like that class, so a setup that prevents me from doing class-related things in favor of generic attacks is not something that makes me happy.

    Because let's face it: like the Marshal, a DS doesn't have much to do with their actions other than attack. They get a breath weapon, but it's not very powerful and not usable round after round, and they get ToV, which is better to use out of combat unless someone needs an immediate spike heal that eats up your reserves. The DS has it better than the Marshal, but not by much. In fact, when it comes down to making regular attacks, the Marshal arguably has it better than the DS, since the DS has worse proficiencies (and equivalent BAB). And of course, DS skills are generally pretty bad.

    So are we T5? Or do we have enough utility to climb above Fighters and Monks to reach the level of Rogues and Shugenjas? I think the answer is the former. The DS is probably a bit stronger over a 20-level career than the Marshal, but they aren't on par with the Rogue or the Shadowcaster or the Scout. They're kind of similar to the Hexblade; they get a few semi-interesting abilities, but they don't get to use them often enough to feel like their own class very much, and those abilities aren't exactly encounter-changing even when they work. T5 it is.

    Divine Mind: Such potential, but such waste. We'll ignore the troubling fluff (psionic power granted from an external source?) and focus on the troubling mechanics.

    First, we've got auras. Just like its brethren above, DM auras offer really tiny bonuses that are honestly mostly forgettable. Some of the mantle-based auras sorta kinda grant abilities that aren't just "add a tiny bonus to a specific number," which is kind of a step up over the other auramancers here, but there aren't too many of those that are game-changers. (And, of course, some mantle auras are nearly strictly worse than the non-mantle auras, like Justice or Pain and Suffering.) However, unlike the Marshal or the DS, the DM's auras have an insanely tiny radius for way too long. Also, it's significantly more difficult and time-consuming for a DM to change their auras than for the other two classes to do so, and that's terrible. (Imposing an unnecessary restriction and then slowly lessening it is not the same thing as providing a progression of class features, CPsi!)

    Then we have the powers. DMs get hit from all sides when it comes to exercising their psionic abilities. First, they have a built-in ML penalty, and we all know how awful it is to have low ML (much worse than having low CL, which is itself a bad thing). Second, they're locked into the mantle system, but they have very few powers known, which makes the mantle system honestly pretty clunky (especially if there are any mantles that they care about more from the perspective of auras or granted abilities than powers), and that's doubly true when they're locked into lower-level powers than their full-manifester peers. And then there's the fact that they have a very small number of PP (and their manifesting stat isn't used for anything else in the class, encouraging MADness). So a DM will get a small amount of utility from actual psionic powers, but they won't get much. Arguably less than a Paladin or Ranger gets from spells, even ignoring splat support (just because of the mantle-based learning restriction and because powers are more level-dependent than spells are). I always forget that they technically get access to 5th level and 6th level powers, but I'm highly skeptical that you can find too many builds that both are functional and playable at the level when you only get the low-level powers from your mantles and also have mantles with "high" level powers that are genuinely useful to the DM by the time you get them. (Plus, they come so late that it's really hard to argue that they matter much.)

    Side note: what's the deal with class level 11 and class level 17? Why grant a higher maximum power level known without also granting a new power known? Even Expanded Knowledge doesn't really work there (first because those aren't at feat levels, and second because EK is based off of "the highest-level power you can manifest," which is ambiguous at best and not helpful here at worst). I guess PsyRef is technically a thing, but I doubt that this was intended. Bad design from start to finish.

    The mantle system also works to the DM's disfavor when we consider that Mantles are very clearly designed for Ardents rather than for DMs (who really seem like an afterthought). The low-level powers they get are actually low-level. There aren't any powers that have lower costs for DMs (the way that Paladins get a few rare spells with lower spell levels than Clerics do) or that are unique to DMs. Any powers they get are designed to be used by a full manifester with a bigger PP pool, a bigger list of powers known, and a higher ML.

    Oh, and there's Divine Grace, which isn't a bad ability in a vacuum, but it's downright weird on a DM, if for no other reason than that it has no stat synergy with literally anything else in the class, including skills—they do not get a single CHA-based skill! Also, it's entirely passive, and that's boring on a class with so few non-passive abilities. (Okay, I guess they can take the Natural World mantle to get Wild Empathy based on CHA, but I sincerely doubt that you can make that be anything more than a flavor ribbon on a pure-class DM. And I guess the Magic Mantle grants UMD as a CHA-based skill, but then you can basically only take one power from it for, like, ever. Still. That's a real reach to find other CHA-based features.)

    So what's a DM doing with their actions? They're making basic attacks (at least they have heavy armor and martial weapons) or manifesting underleveled powers. I'm willing to listen to counterexamples (and I'm not making any sample builds here), but my gut says that a DM who uses true offensive powers in combat is probably being a chump compared to one who tries to use their tiny pool of PP (and powers known) to eke out a tiny bit of noncombat effectiveness, but that's terrible.

    There is a Mind's Eye article that gives them a halfway decent Astral Construct (PLAs are automatically augmented up to max, and then the text specifically lets you sacrifice uses to augment it further, which has some very niche uses) in exchange for making their aura size smaller (which is bad at low levels if you care about your aura, though I'm not sure if you should care about that), which is probably worth taking. They can also trade out the CHA-based Divine Grace for CHA-based Turn Undead (with a level penalty and with the requirement of expending psionic focus), which I suppose can kind of be useful if you have feats to spare (it is true TU, so it can power Divine feats). But again, we've got MADness, and if you want to leverage your psionic abilities into anything useful, that's probably going to take some feat investment as well. And of course, that same Mind's Eye article does offer Hidden Talent instead of Wild Talent, which is a strict something-for-nothing upgrade that should always be selected if it is allowed, though I'm not convinced that it changes the tier. (Ectopic Ally might change the tier, though. It's a minor rules headache when you consider that it doesn't have a listed ML, and it logically cannot be the ML granted by DM alone, since it's available at level 1 but DM doesn't give you your ML at level 1, so you have to figure out if it's your HD or class level or something else, but it's nonetheless a strong and reasonably active ability.)

    This looks an awful lot like another T5. Maybe even lower. The only active abilities that the class gets are underleveled, sharply use-limited (remember that powers want to be augmented!), not designed to account for the fact that the DM gets them later than they should, and subject to less-than-intuitive selection restriction (I hope that your choices for mantles with good granted abilities match your choices for mantles with good powers!). Everything else they get is passive, small, and annoying to use. I guess the Ectopic Ally ACF is a decent crutch once it's got an acceptable duration, so that's a little bit better than the Marshal gets. (With a bit of investment, Ectopic Ally is arguably even going to have more round-by-round effect on the battlefield than a DS's breath weapon.) Other than that, you're pretty much making regular attacks and trying to remind your team to keep track of a small conditional bonus or two. I think that without Ectopic Ally, the class is in T6 (or maybe T5.5) territory (yes, even in a lower tier than the DS, because they're just that damn limited in what they can do), but Ectopic Ally alone gets them up to T5. Fully augmented Astral Constructs are useful and flexible, and that's what puts them above the Soulknife and on par with the Dragon Shaman and the Monk. Not a super high T5 (the Fighter is leaps and bounds above them, and that's terrible), but I think T5.

    tl;dr: Marshal T6, Dragon Shaman T5, Divine Mind T5 with Ectopic Ally
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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Assuming a Marshal uses their Major Aura to boost their to-hit, how far are they behind a full BAB character?

    +0: 5 levels
    -1: 11 levels
    -2: 4 levels

    There are a few levels where not having full BAB sucks, notably 6, 7 and 13, but the Marshal isn't hopelessly behind. With the exception of levels 6-7, they more than make up for their low BAB if they're buffing a single teammate also. And they can switch the aura to damage if they want to go full Power Attack.
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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    tl;dr: Marshall for Tier 5. Decent in the Godwar, mediocre in the dungeon. Maybe tier 4 in a campaign with major focus on mass combat and Leadership.

    The Marshall is a bit weird in that it has a very particular niche - mass combat - that doesn't usually come up much in actual play. Leadership is really commonly banned, for instance, and the Marshall almost seems to assume it. Probably because it's from a mass combat book.

    Consider, if you will, a sixth-level character with Leadership. Their leadership score is 6+CHA - 9 and below don't give any followers (so the 15-array + 1 level character is in bad luck), but if you have +4 CHA (add a +CHA race to the unoptimized array) you now have five first-level minions in addition to your fourth-level cohort.
    Those first-level followers wouldn't be of much use in a typical CR6 battle, but since you've got auras you can do stuff like give them +4 to damage rolls when flanking and combine that with giving them +5ft speed and a free move action to get everyone in place. It's not as good as what other classes can do in their own areas of expertise, and the cohort is likely to overshadow them anyhow, but the Marshall is a force multiplier. Consider given +CHA to reflex saves, for instance: the common anti-group spells target reflex. Or how you can use Over the Top to give +CHA damage on charges and then switch to +CHA damage on flanks the next turn.

    But, like I said, mass combat isn't really a thing in 3E as a whole. Not even in the Miniatures Handbook, really, since that one's more concerned with the miniatures game - a game where I suspect that the Healer and Marshall would find a lot more use.
    (Also, those followers really don't scale well into the late game - especially since you're only going to be able to buff those within 60ft! Marshalls make alright commnaders for smaller groups, though, if you can finagle that with your DM.)


    In typical D&D games, you'll probably be reduced to buffing your party. Which isn't nothing, don't get me wrong - +CHA on everyone's initiative is pretty great, for instance, and the bonus damage isn't nothing. Even just giving everyone +CHA to Constitution checks or Dexterity skill checks could be huge.
    The Major Auras are pretty bad since they advance so slowly, but they're not nothing. The speed bonus is nice, at least.
    And granting everyone else in the party a free move action is definitely a neat ability - it lightens up on the need for Pounce, generally makes the entire party more mobile, and can also act as psuedo-Spring Attack if need be. But again it's so very limited, since you only get a pittance of uses per day - this is probably much more impressive in the miniatures game where you're unlikely to fight more than once per day, but in the RPG it's kind of bad.

    And, of course, there's the opportunity cost - why would you play the Marshall when you could play something else and add something competent to the mix? I don't actually have an answer to that.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Once upon a time I wrote a Dragonshaman Handbook. For whatever reason, in college, every game I ran someone was playing this class. When I left college and started a play by post, Yep, Dragonshaman. They simply ROCK at low levels. Like the fast healing aura from levels 1 - 4 is awesome. Totally eliminates the 15 minute adventuring day. Especially in our, "All-Orc" campaign, where our orcs were too stupid to rest.

    So let me wholeheartedly say that in EVERY situation I'd rather have a Dragonshaman in my group than a Marshal or a Fighter. Dragonshaman's have the tools in their basic class to fulfill some important roles in, and out of combat and they would do it better than the Marshal or Fighter.

    A basic Dragonborn Mongrelfolk Dragonshaman who takes thematic feat choices - Martial Study (For Diplomacy), Imperious Command, Entangling Exhalation, and the Shamanic Invocation for Beguiling Influence. This guy ROCKS (for his tier) in social encounters and in combat he can riddle the battlefield with entangled and panicked conditions and has the hit points to take a load of damage. A Marshal and a Fighter simply can't do this.

    I voted for the Fighter to be tier 5. I think of the Fighter as the quintessential "tier 5 class." The Dragonshaman is clearly better than the fighter and clearly better than the Marshal.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Quote Originally Posted by Zaq View Post
    So, I rank Fighters as T5 and Barbarians as T4. I don't think the Marshal has the combat power of either class, and while they have a little more out-of-combat utility than the Fighter, I don't think they get enough utility to close that gap. And the fact that they have seriously diminishing returns on level investment really, really grates. I don't think I can rate them higher than T5. If we were looking at dips, it'd be another matter, but a straight-class Marshal is honestly kind of baffling.
    Motivate Strength + Improved Trip, Motivate Charisma + Intimidate, Motivate Intelligence + Knowledge Devotion (sort of). Not great, but those are solid boosts to solidly T4 tactics. The sorts of things Factotums are usually told to do in a fight, honestly-- the Marshal doesn't get that smattering of magic at high levels, and they don't get the same breath of skills, but they've got a bit more punch in the scrum.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Quote Originally Posted by Grod_The_Giant View Post
    Motivate Strength + Improved Trip, Motivate Charisma + Intimidate, Motivate Intelligence + Knowledge Devotion (sort of). Not great, but those are solid boosts to solidly T4 tactics. The sorts of things Factotums are usually told to do in a fight, honestly-- the Marshal doesn't get that smattering of magic at high levels, and they don't get the same breath of skills, but they've got a bit more punch in the scrum.
    Do they though, really? Any Marshal focusing on both some kind of physical combat and his Aura is going to be MAD, so the Aura probably won't get much above +4-6 for a good portion of the game. Assuming its some kind of a tripping/grapple build that also has intimidate (maybe a [Primordial] Half Ogre?), you're probably going to get the aura to Initiative, and then get it to all tripping/grappling and any Intimidate checks you do as well. So that amounts to like, Improved Initiative, Improved Grapple, Improved Trip, Skill Focus: Intimidate, and some change worth at most another 4 feats or so. The Fighter gets 11 feats, and generally they should be better feats than most of those. They seem pretty comparable to me, albeit the Marshal is more frontloaded and spreads out his bonuses to the team, but the Fighter gets more ( especially considering full BaB which is very useful for that sort of build)

    They seem about equal to me, which is affirming my earlier inclination of T5. If Leadership was allowed in most games instead of banned in most games I might slide them to 4.5 or even 4, but without that they have no source of their own minions and are dependent on the goodwill of others to get the most out of ally buffing.

    -

    Also, I noticed Zaq referring to the Marshal aura as 60 ft. Is that a typo, or is there some easy way to boost it past 30 ft that I forget?

    As a sort of added insult to Dragon Shamans that nobody has mentioned yet, any character can take a Feat at 3rd level to get a Draconic Aura if they happen to want one, and with Dragonblood it scales almost as well as the real thing!
    Last edited by DeAnno; 2017-04-30 at 05:10 PM.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Quote Originally Posted by DeAnno View Post
    Also, I noticed Zaq referring to the Marshal aura as 60 ft. Is that a typo, or is there some easy way to boost it past 30 ft that I forget?
    Quote Originally Posted by Miniatures Handbook p.12
    Unless otherwise noted, a marshal's aura affects all allies within 60 feet (including himself) who can hear the marshal.
    You may be thinking of Grant Move Action, which is within 30 feet.

    Or, for good measure:
    Quote Originally Posted by Player's Handbook II p.13
    Unless otherwise noted, your draconic aura affects all allies within 60 feet (including yourself) with line of effect to you.
    And the Divine Mind's auras are weird, of course, being 5ft + 5ft/2 levels beyond 1st. (So 5ft at level 1, 50ft at level 19.)

    Don't ask me why they're all different - maybe they realized that 60ft is kind of crazy huge in any non-mass combat scenario and thus so big the size is irrelevant, and felt that they needed to tone it down and make the size more tactically relevant with the other classes?

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Quote Originally Posted by Zaq View Post
    The "little features" (Skill Focus, Draconic Adaptation etc.) are just that—little. They're basically flavor ribbons, and they don't really factor into tier discussions. I did once see a really clever Iron Chef build that used Draconic Adaptation way better than it had any right to be used, but that's kind of the exact opposite of a DS 20 character.
    Would you mind linking to that Iron Chef build? I'm interested in it, but I couldn't find it with a google search.
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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Quote Originally Posted by ATHATH View Post
    Would you mind linking to that Iron Chef build? I'm interested in it, but I couldn't find it with a google search.
    I'll grab a proper link when I'm not on mobile, but it was the Spellfire Channeler round. One of the dragon colors gets Feather Fall at-will as the spell. FF is an immediate action, so you can still take the full-round action to absorb spells as spellfire and then use it to charge up.

    EDIT: Here it is. Shmebulok, by The Viscount.

    That was a fun round overall. We got a lot of good entries.
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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Marshal... high tier 5

    This guy can be optimized into tier 4 with some investment but it takes some doing. The only combat style I can see working well with him is a mounted warrior as the medium BAB becomes less of an issue that way and your mount (obtained through wild cohort) gets boosted by your auras too.

    The auras are not terrible, they're fairly easy to swap out depending on the situation and they have decent range, the problem is that it's just not enough. If his grant move action was replaced with a grant standard action (or even full round action) this could be significantly better. As is it's just not optimal in any way beyond a dip.

    An archery build might also be half decent (say a killoren focused on CHA using charming the arrow)

    Dragon Shaman tier 5

    Despite the slightly better abilities I don't see how this guy is significantly better than a marshal. He gives up versality for useless abilities (much like a monk really). This class just feels like a trap and is really overshadowed by the dragonfire adept. Again, he can probably be optimized into a tier 4 with some effort.

    Divine mind tier 5

    Even with the right ACF (astral construct) this guy is weak and mostly useless, barely a step up from a tier 6 class. Unlike the previous classes he gets little support to improve his mediocre abilities.
    Last edited by Soranar; 2017-05-01 at 11:06 AM.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    The aura classes are oddballs from a tiering perspective because of how they fit into a party.

    Consider a test of "How much does this character contribute in a mid-to-high level tier 1 Wizard+Cleric+Druid+X party? Do they contribute enough that the party can handle some higher CR situations that they'd struggle with as a 3-man party?"

    Most martials are basically playing football here. They're tackling enemies to keep them tied up, or they're blocking monsters trying to tackle their own casters. Both jobs get harder the more PCs lose initiative. Meanwhile, the casters use save-or-score spells.

    Effectiveness varies by tier. A warrior can tackle or block with the druid's animal companion, a fighter is better at blocking and a barbarian is much better at tackling. A PoW class might even be able to convert a tackle into a score.

    Meanwhile, a Marshal's playing a different game. They help the casters win initiative. They help the casters' scoring spells beat higher CR monsters' SR. They boost their team's saves to make enemy save-or-scores harder to land. And all this is passive; they can do it while also joining the animal companion in the normal football things.

    Divine Mind auras do less in terms of caster support, and their initiative aura is typically weaker. However, they get some tricks to make up for that in the form of powers known. Further, they have the unusual ability to try to tackle an entire team of casters at once with the Corruption mantle. Too bad it takes them a while before they can both choose their aura and act normally during the all-important first combat round.

    Dragon Shamans get the smallest initiative bonus. Also, their other auras mostly don't help casters much. However, their Vigor aura is notable as a swift action to stabilize a party member in the negatives.
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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    I don't know anything about Divine Mind aside from random mentions on the forum, not a popular class in any group I've been with.

    Marshal- I think Grod's assessment of a Tier 4 makes sense. The Marshal has a decent amount of skill points and with access to the right minor auras can make himself competent at many tasks, though not likely an expert. They have a similar vibe as a Bard mixed with Factotum, giving everyone in the party his Charisma to whatever task they need doing. I do agree that Marshals are really boring though. Even if the auras are handy, they don't have enough access to active abilities, so you might often feel like you are the party's cohort.
    Dragon Shaman- Tier 5. While the DS does get some shiny abilities, they often come about too late to really mean anything. Entangling Breath is great, but that is just one trick. They lack significant skill points, have medium BAB and the auras scale way too slowly. Vitality is better than LoH, but in most situations you're just saving the party a few charges from a wand. If they had full BAB or more skill points, I could see this being T4.
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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Okay, voting based on arguments.

    Marshal is low Tier 3, call it 3.2. In general, I agree with Walker's "Bard mixed with Factotum" comment. Their contribution to an all-high-tier party is way out of proportion to what any T5 and most T4 classes can hope to contribute; meanwhile, their aura buffs contribute a lot of the party's power in a group of T4 or T5s. They can half-skillmonkey themselves while greatly boosting the main skillmonkey (aura plus Aid Another). They're very good diplomancers, with skill focus and double the CHA bonus. Also, their main contribution is decoupled from their actions. While they mostly need to look outside their class features for useful Standard actions, that their Standard actions aren't spoken for is a pro rather than a con.

    Not mentioned previously, but very relevant, is that Grant Move Action is hax as a readied action.

    Dragon Shaman is tier 5 per DeAnno. They can play uptier with Entangling Exhalation, but even NPC classes can copy an aura and breath weapon, albeit a bit late, with feats. They stay out of T6 by having all their auras by 9, by Vigor aura plus Touch of Vitality representing a significant amount of healing, and by eventually getting native flight.

    Divine Mind is tier 4.5. They can get solidly into T4 with the right options, and even without them tend to cross the T5-T4 border at high levels when they get extra mantles and the ability to switch auras in combat, or perhaps later when they gain 5th level powers. I think Corruption aura, Hidden Talent ACF and the Ectopic Ally ACF are the only ways for them to play uptier early, and I don't think they play nicely together; the low aura radius hurts a lot.
    Last edited by Bucky; 2017-05-01 at 10:51 PM.
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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Divine Mind Tier 4.5 I went into detail on this in the other thread. With the ACFs I think it gets a half a tier.

    Marshal Tier 4.5 solid party face,

    Dragon shaman 5 breath weapon and auras pretty weak, can grab an invocation.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Quote Originally Posted by Bucky View Post
    Not mentioned previously, but very relevant, is that Grant Move Action is hax as a readied action.
    There's an ACF in the PHB that replaces it with something... well, marginally more useful, I guess-- Adrenaline Boost grants [Marshal Level] temporary hit points to everyone, or twice that many if you're at less than half. It's... well, it's not fantastic, but it's about on par with Mass Aid, I guess. I can see actually using it in more situations than I can Grant Move Action, at least.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Huh, apparently I value out-of-turn movement a lot more than the forum in general. Breaking Line of Effect in response to an action wastes it, so a readied Grant Move Action can straight-up trade standard actions with someone while also granting side benefits to the rest of the party.

    Or, yeah, you can use it to let teammates pseudo-pounce, or to surprise-AoO someone, potentially with multiple PCs, who committed to a provoking action outside anyone's threatened area. Or maybe both at the same time, because it's an AoE.

    Vs. smart opponents a marshal can also bluff (not the skill), with a ranged attack as his readied action.
    Last edited by Bucky; 2017-05-04 at 11:27 PM.
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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Quote Originally Posted by Bucky View Post
    Huh, apparently I value out-of-turn movement a lot more than the forum in general.
    It may just be that folks don't value it because it's often not as useful to pure casters. However, I'd like to note that there's plenty of casters who can benefit from it as well, whether it's to give them spring attack to land their touch spell, or to reposition them away from AoOs.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    What really kills Grant Move Action is how low the uses per day are; 1/day/4 levels is just really punishing.

    If you consider the ability about equivalent to a 3rd level spell slot, imagine the class with the grant move action text stripped out and a 3rd slot once per 5 levels; it looks even more like an NPC class! I'm not as down on these guys as Zaq because they are situationally good, but everything after level 1 is just so sparse; this could be a five level prestige class and it still might only be worth dipping level 1 (That gives me an idea...)

    Marshal: T5

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Readied Grant Move Action is basically a situational (and worse) Sudden Jaunt, isn't it?

    It's a neat trick for a martial class, but the action cost and limited uses kills it.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Quote Originally Posted by Bucky View Post
    Huh, apparently I value out-of-turn movement a lot more than the forum in general. Breaking Line of Effect in response to an action wastes it, so a readied Grant Move Action can straight-up trade standard actions with someone while also granting side benefits to the rest of the party.

    Or, yeah, you can use it to let teammates pseudo-pounce, or to surprise-AoO someone, potentially with multiple PCs, who committed to a provoking action outside anyone's threatened area. Or maybe both at the same time, because it's an AoE.

    Vs. smart opponents a marshal can also bluff (not the skill), with a ranged attack as his readied action.
    It's a neat tactic, but... the problem is that those are fairly situational things that require you to ready an action-- you're not just trading your standard for an ally's move, you're trading it for the possibility of moving an ally. Grant Move Action would be delightful as an immediate action, for sure, but it doesn't seem worth it as a standard.

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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Quote Originally Posted by Zaq View Post
    (Ectopic Ally might change the tier, though. It's a minor rules headache when you consider that it doesn't have a listed ML, and it logically cannot be the ML granted by DM alone, since it's available at level 1 but DM doesn't give you your ML at level 1, so you have to figure out if it's your HD or class level or something else, but it's nonetheless a strong and reasonably active ability.)
    What do you mean? It says in the article "The power manifests at your class level."
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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Quote Originally Posted by Zombulian View Post
    What do you mean? It says in the article "The power manifests at your class level."
    Huh. I had somehow overlooked that. You're completely correct.
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    Default Re: Retiering the Classes: Divine Mind, Dragon Shaman, and Marshal

    Alright, I may expand on this later but for now...

    Marshal: Tier 4

    Dragon Shaman: Tier 5

    Vanilla Divine Mind: Tier 5

    Mind's Eye Divine Mind: Tier 4
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