Posted by : David Guyll February 12, 2012

Et tu, Schwalb


Before I go into some of what is wrong with both the article, I will answer that none of the options individually portrays what a fighter is or should be, and they aren't even mutually exclusive. Why cannot a fighter have fighting styles and focus on a weapon? Do any of those things mean she cannot defend her allies?

When I think of a fighter I tend to cleave to the archetype of a tough, strong, skilled warrior clad in heavy armor, usually keeping her allies safe from harm. That is to say that I don't think that a fighter must be a tank, but the archetype is common enough that it should certainly be an option.

Personally I think the slayer and knight best evoke the two strongest fighter concepts; the slayer is all about damage output with a big-fucking weapon, while the knight is more durable and has mechanics that can actually keep her allies safe. I guess my preference would be:

·         Exclusive weapon (or preferrably weapon-category) perks of some kind. This can be class features, feats, or exploits that make you better with a weapon or let you do something else with it in the vein of 4th Edition. Like, knock people around with a spear, knock them down with a hammer, etc.
·         Stances were a great addition and provide a simple mechanic for allowing a fighter to mix things up without a lot of book-keeping.
·         At the least an option for a fighter to actually be able to defend her allies. None of the bullshit from older editions that said you could do that even though you really could not (short of fighting in a narrow tunnel so that nothing could squeeze by your corpse).

Normally I can really get behind the stuff that Rob talks about, but this time? It reads like Monte Cook logged in to his account and is trying to post something in his name, just to see if anyone would notice. Hell, there is a 40+ page thread on RPG.net, and plenty of peole there assumed it was Cook even after being told that it was Schwalb. As someone in the thread put it, these polls feel less like they are actually trying to gather data, and more like they are trying to covince you of decisions that they have already made.

"The fighter is the class you hand to the new player who doesn't know much about RPGs."

Maybe in older editions, where all the fighter did was spam the same attack over and over again while inexorably being eclipsed by the wizard, but current fighters are just as complex and flexible as any of them. Hell even the knight and slayer provide more options and better balance without sacrificing much of the simplicity, making them ideal choices for players that don't want to have to juggle a lot of mechanics around.

At any rate this is a stupid mentality. A player new to a game should be able to play whatever the fuck they want. It is a fantasy game, and if a player wants to play a wizard they should be able to without having to go through an unrelated tutorial class first.

"The fighter also protects his or her allies."

In 4th Edition, sure. In previous editions, how? There was literally nothing from stopping a monster from just walking past the fighter and mauling the cleric or wizard to death. I guess the fighter might be able to make an attack of opportunity in 3rd Edition, but otherwise the fighter cannot do anything about it. This is not a major problem for monsters in the Ingelligence range of nil to stupid, but smart ones that know what magic is or employ tactics are likely to focus on the wizard or cleric.

Of course, none of this matters if the fighter cannot even touch the monster or is easy to take out of the fight, which can happen in the mid-level range due to monsters that can fly, teleport, or just cast a Will-based spell to confuse, scare, or just mind-control her.

"The fighter leads the charge, hacking down enemies with sword and axe, at least when the fighter isn't sitting in the back loosing arrows against gibbering horde."

I really don't like how Schwalb interjects the archer bit in there. It feels forced. Like, Monte Cook-forced. Outside of 4th Edition I have rarely seen players make archers, even with 3rd Edition rangers. He makes it sound commonplace, or that it should be. It sounds more like he is trying to pander to the whiners who did not want to play a ranger (or just multiclass, hybrid, or talk to their fucking DM) and instead wanted a fighter that would basically be the same fucking thing.

"The fighter is the knight, the mercenary, the archer, and the warrior wielding two weapons."

Hey again archer. I like how he slaps it in the middle. Reminds of of that part in the Simpsons where Homer is tryingto buy illegal fireworks.

I am not saying that fighters cannot used ranged weapons (they can in 4th Edition, and lose out on all of a minor benefit), but fighters specifically focused purely on using a bow? This sounds like Schwalb just interjected archer in the list of actual fighter archetypes in the hopes that people would at least overlook it if not accept it. Archers do not make me think of a heavily armored warrior that protects her allies. I think light armor and high mobility.

Like, oh...the ranger, which also no longer has an animal companion or casts divine spells, so...what the fuck is the problem, again? Really the ranged fighter that comes to mind is using her Strength score chucking throwing axes, javelins, and spears. These also have the benefit of being usable with one hand, and I can envision a fighter opening up a battle chucking a throwing axe before drawing her sword and charging in.

"What made the fighter interesting in the previous editions were the choices you made with weapons, armor, and later, feats. Fighter players had a great deal of freedom to build the warrior they wanted to play, whether that warrior was a knight or an archer."

So the fighter was interesting because you got to pick from various weapons that did 1d8, or perhaps 1d10 or even 2d6 damage? Wow. Very compelling. Not as compelling as armor, though; I would start with scale mail, then move up to half-plate or full-plate depending on where I was and how much cash I had. So many options. Why would I ever want a class feature that allows me to go with the weapon style I want, or maneuvers that make my weapon choice actually matter? No, picking my damage die is enough for me.

Sarcasm aside the feats were a kind of class feature patch for the fighter. You picked a weapon you liked and dumped a lot of feats on it in a vain effort to try and keep pace with the numerous other classes that were better than you, and did not have to spend feats to suck. Going for a duel-wielder was an even bigger hassle, especially if you wanted to mitigate the attack penalties by taking two different weapons as they each required their own slew of feats.

No, feats-as-a-feature were bullshit and 4th Edition went a long way ensuring your fighter got what she needed to remain viable without you having to strictly adhere to a build mentality.

"In 4th Edition, the fighter’s focus shifted from total customization and instead grounded the fighter into a particular niche—a role that would continue until the slayer came along in the Essentials products."

The 4th Edition fighter was "locked" into a niche? What...having a larger selection of weapons (as opposed to a handful of "good" choices), class features, feats, and exploits was not enough? What the fuck?

Given that some fighter exploits applied a bonus to one or more weapon categories, this statement is fucking bullshit. Covering attack works with any melee weapon, so if you somehow lose the weapon you are carrying (which happens almost exactly never in any edition), you can still use it with an axe, flail, spear, rock, or your fucking bare hands. Actually at the launch of 4th Edition none of the 1st-level exploits required specific weapons, though tide of iron required a shield, and reaping strike gave you a slightly better benefit if you used any two-hander.

I also like how he says that the fighter was grounded into a niche, even though that the various fighter features and exploits could easily usher you into more of a damage dealer or controller, or just make you damned hard to kill. Hell in Martial Power 2 the fighter finally had a viable unarmed mechanic, and any fighter could go from adding Wisdom to opportunity attacks to chasing a fucker and knocking them down, giving them a lot of mobility.

I am going to quote someone from RPG.net, who mentioned something on this subject that I agree with:

"While it may not be the whole point of the blog, it does present a veritably Straw Man of the 4e fighter.

It points out that the 4e fighter is a defender and (like most defenders) melee-focused. It makes it sound like that's the only thing 4e did with the fighter, force it into a Role (like very other 4e class).

A much more momentous thing happened to the fighter in 4e. It stopped sucking. It became the equal of other classes. It was as good (at least) a defender as the Paladin or Swordmage. It was on the same playing field as casters, able to bring some round-by-round versatility in combat, and some peak-power when really needed. Able to 'nova' in those benighted 5-minute workdays. That balance and near-parity was something the fighter never had before. Never.

And it's not even acknowledged, let alone valued."

"I find myself looking back to the 3rd Edition fighter with a great deal of fondness."

Yeah...being overshadowed by non-fighting classes, having to go toe-to-toe with monsters that could kill you in a full-round action (if they wanted to go toe-to-toe at all), and getting to make the same routine attack over and over again...those were the days. Seriously though, the only reason that you should look back to the 3rd Edition fighter is as a lession to be avoided.

"I liked how a player could customize the fighter in any way he or she wanted."

You mean a one-hander, two-hander, or I guess ranged-guy? Even if you blatantly want to ignore the ranger (even for multiclassing/hybrid purposes) due to the name, and even if you don't want to take lots of bow feats and rely on ranged basic attacks (basically what fighter arrow-attacks where in older editions, but still better) two out of three is not bad, especially given how much more competent and flexible they are.

And, again, there are the six or so class features, two sub-classes (with their own customization options), and exploits. Just throwing that out there...

"As well, a player who wanted to be a damn good archer could just go to the fighter without having to embrace the ranger’s narrative (and attendant features)."

Fuck the narrative. That is a lame excuse. Look at the mechanics; a lightly-armored warrior that could be good at both melee and ranged stuff, which is what I think of when I envision an "archer". A big, tough guy clad in scale or plate mail with a bow? Not so much. As in, not at all.

It feels like that rather than just make a class feature to shut the vocal minority up about their ranged fighters, or trying explain to them how it "okay" to call your class something else, or even just making an entire archer class (that would likely just be a fighter with copy-and-pasted ranger exploits), that they are going to fold and solve a problem that I am not convinced exists.

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

  1. First of all, I've been waiting a long time to find a pro-4e blogger with the same "my edition is the best" approach as as the old schoolers.

    I haven't spent as much time thinking about this as you (I'm mostly reserving judgement until I actually have a 5e book in my hands), but I would say that "The fighter is the class you hand to the new player who doesn't know much about RPGs" is not really, "Noob can't be a wizard," but, "You don't know anything about D&D? Well, it's a lot of fun. Let's get you started right away. This fighter character is effective just swinging a sword. If you want to do more, you can, but while you're just figuring out the whole D&D experience, start with this - if you don't know what to do at any time, just say 'I swing my sword.' Now, here's how to roll a d4..."

    Are you saying that the fighter class can't be used as an archer - a ranger class character must be used? What about someone who wants to play a bow-master with no spells, no animal companions, just a bow and arrows?

    Of course there are options for 4e fighters. But the 3e fighter is what WotC is leaning toward for 5e, so that's what they're going to "talk up."

    Just my two (or more) coppers...

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  2. Since every class in 4th Edition uses the same unified resolution mechanic (roll d20, and roll high), even a new player can easily sit down and play a wizard, or druid, or monk, or any other class that would normally require learning additional subsystems. Besides, there are already two classes that are basically slimmed down fighters; the knight and slayer. If all you want to do is swing a sword (or hammer, or whatever), then those are two simple-yet-viable classes.

    That...would be a ranger. In case I was not clear above, the 4th Edition ranger is purely martial. One of its class features can give it an animal companion, but the other three are just ranged, melee, or a combination of both (and a lot of their exploits operate using ranged or melee). Making a ranged fighter at that point just seems pointless and repetitive in a game where lots of powers were already getting pretty repetitive.

    That is the crux of my issue with Schwalb: they want to go back to the 3rd Edition fighter, but are not being honest about the reasoning; among other things the 3rd Edition fighter is under-powered, inflexible, has crap for skills, and is outdone by a number of classes that were not supposed to be fighters.

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  3. There are issues with 4E, combats get really clunky as players level up and the fighter can fall into this trap. However 4E has solid ideas that should be expanded on, not rolled back to follow along earlier editions. As for class simplicity, there is nothing keeping the player from using the same at-will attack over and over again if they want to mimic the fighter classes of older editions.

    I've also seen 4E fighters heft javelins when they open up an attack (give them a magic weapon that returns to their hand if you really want to see a ranged fighter having fun). I'm with you on the idea that if a fighter wanted to focus on bows and ranged attacks exclusively, it could be done, but it might be better to shift to a ranger. Come to think of it, if they wanted to play around with other archer effects why not play a seeker?

    I swear the suits at Hasbro have likely put an ultimatum on WotC. They looked over at Pathfinder, i.e. D&D, and wondered why the hell was this other company putting stuff out that should be under their IP (never going to see OGL ever come to light again)? Even more, why the hell was WotC not doing anything to get them back the their brand? I think DnDnext is coming out for just that, to get people back into playing 'official' D&D.

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  4. The fighter being obsoleted is a problem as old as the paladin, ranger, barbarian, and cavalier. Personally, I would prefer to get rid of the other classes rather than inflating the power and complexity of the fighter to keep up with the Joneses.

    Using the same at-will attack does not really mimic past editions, because it limits the imagination in practice. I know that theoretically people could just add new flavor to any power, but in reality what I see is players looking at their list of powers as "what they can do," rather than the open ended nature of a fighter in the early games (I'm talking about pre-3E here, as I don't have much experience with 3E).

    Though I consider myself an OSR guy, I am running a 4E game, and I've been looking for interesting 4E blogs for a while now. It's easy to get stuck in the OSR echo chamber (really, this is a problem with any online community). If you're curious about how I play 4E, check this out:

    http://untimately.blogspot.com/2011/12/nalfeshnee-hack.html

    One thing I don't understand about the 4E mindset: why must all classes be equally powerful in combat?

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  5. The fighter does not have to have a lot of complexity to keep up; the slayer and knight class from Essentials both proved that you could pare down options while still having a viable class. Giving the fighter the ability to ignore hit points at times, impose conditions, and scaling damage would go a looong way to making it work.

    I played a lot of 2nd Edition, and electing a target, rolling to hit, and then rolling damage on a hit was virtually all I did. I have heard players propose "fixes" by allowing the fighter to make ability/skill checks to do other things. While I am not opposed to houseruling those sorts of things, a lot of DMs end up pushing out a target number without any guidance based on how hard they think it is, or even just if they really want/don't want it to succeed.

    Frankly I never felt the fighter was open-ended, but rather a kind of "training-wheels" class, or something you default to if your stats were too crappy. I think that 3rd Edition went a long way to make it more flexible and competent, but 4th Edition is the first edition where they really shine.

    Finally I don't think that all classes need to be equally powerful in combat, but that everyone should have the capacity to meaningfully contribute in most situations.

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  6. All reasonable points. I'm not very familiar with the Essentials classes; most of my experience is with the 4E Player's Handbook fighter. I've never been a fan of stat qualifications for classes (I'm more of a B/X player than an AD&D player), so I like that 4E dropped ability score requirements, even though I'm not crazy about the number inflation.

    I feel like one thing that was lost after 2E was the traditional fighter endgame, which was to build a stronghold and raise an army. Becoming a battlefield commander and moving the stage of the game from the dungeon to the political realm helped the fighter stand toe to toe with the high level magic-user and other classes.

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  7. The number inflation is one thing I am hoping is done right in 5E. Just smooth everything out so it is not a redundant numbers-arms race.

    The stronghold thing was not anything I've ever seen nor heard, so it is no biggie for me. We DID use the Stronghold Builder's Guide in 3E to build a two-story house, which was kind of fun.

    It doesn't help much now, but Schwalb did write an article on strongholds, which if you want to strictly adhere to the game math are appropriate awards for level 11 characters (about the 9th-level benchmark from older editions).

    I am hoping for something similar in 5E, except with guidelines and suggestions for lower level characters who can be awarded titles and property.

    ReplyDelete

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