Posted by : David Guyll April 13, 2011

Fighter and wizard relations have improved a lot over the past few years, what with fighters actually being viable options throughout the course of play (and wizards being relegated to "merely" a compelling play style, as opposed to a god-in-training). Before, fighters were easier to play because they only really had one thing to do: make attack rolls, followed by damage rolls if things worked out alright. I'm told they also had awesome saving throws, but I only really remember 3rd Edition, where an 8th-level warblade failed a Will save against a charm monster spell, even though he rolled like, 13 before modifiers.


I get the idea (and perhaps the intent) behind it: fighters are harder to kill, but can't do much at first, while wizards were hard as hell to keep alive, but could do lots of shit if you managed to pull it off. However, this is something that we learned in my first game design class not to do, and I cannot fathom how anyone would have fun basically carrying another player around just so they could dominate the game for you later. No, I much prefer things as they are now: you pick a class with the comfort that you won't be rendered obsolete after ironically accruing enough XP.

Don't get me wrong, I don't mind a game with options designed to cater to new players, or to keep things simple for the casual player. I just don't think that a game should reward players that have the time and inclination to devote to system mastery. That leads to a handful of accepted classes and accompanying builds, and likewise serves to potentially alienate new and inexperienced players. To me, Essentials did this just fine with some of the classes. Players that don't want a lot of choices or a relatively simple character have plenty to choose from, and they don't suck after 5th-level.

{ 3 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. A very interesting statement. It is true that fighters and wizards have much disparity at low and high levels, but you must look at this more closely.
    In most fantasy books/games, a wizard remains weak during his "training" and then achieves almost deity-like power (Harry Potter/Raistlin Majere for examples). Fighters tend to remain basically the same throughout most books. So D&D is actually following a trend here. This is not justification though, so I shall explain further.
    Smart fighters use their secret power to balance themselves with wizards. Feats! Although this goes away with 4th edition, in 3-3.5 a smart fighter could select Weapon Focus, Weapon Specialization, Weapon Supremacy, etc. That and careful use of money to buy the best armor and weapons would make them roughly on par with wizards.
    Unfortunately, no matter how balanced the rule system is, wizards will always be weak at low levels (they can't wear armor) and strong at high levels (meteor swarm, avasculate, wish). No rule system will ever beat that simple fact without making the glorious game of Dungeons and Dragons into a simplistic and banal game, like most MMORPGS are.

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  2. Fighters in 3rd Edition were NEVER balanced with wizards no matter what feats you took (even the ones in PH2, like Weapon Supremecy). The reason is that while fighters have to hack away at a monster's hit points, wizards can simply ignore them entirely through save-or-die effects, ability damage/drain, and level drain. Though fighters CAN continue to deal simple damage throughout the day, the reality is that once the cleric and/or wizard run out of spells then it is time to call it a night.

    As for your other point, I disagree that by actually providing some modicum of balance that the game becomes a "banal MMORPG". Though I have yet to get a party beyond 11th-level, wizards still feel like wizards and can do things that fighters cannot, but fighters are still useful. Wizards do not have to be overpowered to feel special, just as fighters do not have to fall behind the curve to seem "mundane".

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  3. "Smart fighters use their secret power to balance themselves with wizards. Feats! Although this goes away with 4th edition, in 3-3.5 a smart fighter could select Weapon Focus, Weapon Specialization, Weapon Supremacy, etc. That and careful use of money to buy the best armor and weapons would make them roughly on par with wizards."

    It's just so adorably naive that you think, A: Good Weapons and armor make Martial types on par with Wizards in 3rd edition, and B: that Weapon Focus, Weapon Specialization and Weapon Supremacy are good feats.

    Here's the thing, anonymous: D&D is NOT a storytelling vehicle. It can be used as such, but there are far better mediums for collaborative storytelling than RPG's. The purpose of D&D is to be a GAME.

    So that thing you mentioned, about Wizards having to pay their dues in order to attain god-like power later on? Great idea for a BOOK, (Note to self: contemplate a fantasy re-telling of the Rocky Balboa story)but a shitty idea for a GAME. Especially for a team-based game wherein players work together to overcome challenges.

    In other words, class-based games MUST have class balance...because that is the whole point of a class-based game. All classes should be fun to play at all levels. A game that achieves this ideal is doing it's job as a game.

    Furthermore, players with god-like in-game power isn't the best idea. At higher levels, it creates a rules mastery arms race of measures and countermeasures that culminate in a resounding crescendo of: "Fuck you..and you...rocks fall...everyone dies...I'm going home to masturbate over my Metal Hurlant collection."

    That's why 4E rituals were such a good idea. Players who like to use magic to achieve greater agency in the game world can do so in a more manageable way, and can still play Blasty McFire-gasm, Lord of Fire who Lords...with Fire! without sacrificing their combat utility.

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