Martial / Caster disparity- In Real table top gaming


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Let's see...

My first Pathfinder character to get as high as 9th level was a fighter. And not even the basic 2HPA guy, but an intelligent fighter who could trip and disarm very well, and therefore had more options than is standard for a fighter. Once he got Greater Trip and Combat Reflexes, he could declare a full-attack, replace the first with a trip, then do a disarm on the AoO, and then spend his iterative whacking the prone guy. Then if he stands up or grabs his weapon, I whack him with another AoO. If he does both, then the first AoO whacks him and the second undoes whatever he did with the first action. (That is, if he grabs his weapon then stands up, I go whack/disarm. If he stands up then grabs his weapon, I go whack/trip.)

Unfortunately, more and more enemies either weren't affected by trip/disarm (such as monsters) or didn't care about being tripped/disarmed (casters don't have a weapon, don't care about the AC penalty because it doesn't affect mirror image/displacement, and don't care about the attack penalty because magic), so I was still usually relegated to session after session of "I full attack it; is it dead yet?" Meanwhile, I was surrounded by casters who could do entirely different tactics every fight if they wanted.

And that's just combat. Out of combat, I had all these extra skill ranks (at least, compared to the INT-dump stereotype) and couldn't accomplish a damn thing with them. If there was an obstacle, there was usually a (fairly high) DC to overcome it. If I didn't have the skill, or if I did but didn't roll high enough, then a caster just goes "I pull out my 25gp scroll of bypass obstacle" and that's that, typically auto-succeeding.

So my intelligent and talented fighter with a nice backstory and everything was irrelevant out of combat and boring in combat. It got so frustrating that I quit playing him at 9th and decided my next character would have magic.

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Then there was my cleric. I didn't even focus on his spellcasting that much: he was a melee cleric. He typically (this was in PFS) had the highest AC at the table, the highest attack bonus at the table, enough damage per hit that you couldn't just ignore him, and could do things in combat besides full-attack. Oh, too dangerous to go toe-to-toe with (like a fiendish Titan Centipede, or an ooze that deals CON drain when you hit it)? I can literally just send you to hell. Oh, the guy's in the air? I can just walk up the air to hit you. Oh, you're trying to spam deeper darkness? I can completely negate it (Sun domain). Oh, somebody took a nasty poison/disease/affliction? I can just tell it to go away. Oh, there's harpies? Silence. Oh, someone got trapped behind a wall of stone? Good thing I have stone shape prepped. And that's before we even get to my scrolls. Seriously, I had such an easy time being as good a fighter as a fighter, that I had spell slots left over to carry answers to all kinds of nasty situations we might encounter.

Meanwhile, I could buff any of my or a teammate's social skills through the roof via a domain power, I could ask Iomedae what's coming up today and actually get an answer, I could bypass all those obstacles that made my fighter feel silly. I got to do all the fighting my fighter did without ever being sidelined like I was with the fighter. There was no challenge my cleric couldn't face. (And before you ask, no, I wasn't being a dick and deliberately trying to sideline other people's characters. I always made sure to give other people the chance to do stuff first, then stepped up if they couldn't do it. People liked, requested, and cheered for having this character at the table.)

I could list off more stories of real, actual gameplay, but what's the point? Everyone who says that a caster/martial disparity exists has played and/or GM'd Pathfinder. We're not talking about a group of people who read the CRB but haven't played, and declared that they know what's up better than the actual players. Those who acknowledge the disparity ARE actual players, whether others can accept it or not.


DrDeth wrote:

ElyasRavenwood's interesting thread go me thinking. Many people here talk about the Martial/Caster disparity as if it is a obvious thing, and ask 'why can't martial have nice things?"

But I have played in three PF campaigns now, going to 7th, 11th and 15th level. No sign of the Martial/Caster disparity- except at the very lowest levels where martials win out. Hmm. Also playing in a number of PFS games. Not there either (but all rather low level, 7th is highest).

True, I did play in a 3.5 campaign where once we hit the point where the two casters could toss around 9th level spells (Shapechange!) my martial did feel rather useless. So, I saw it myself, but at a very high level.

Reading what the devs say, they also say that in their games there is little or no Martial/Caster disparity.

Hmm.

But clearly some others have experienced it, commonly.

So, I'd like to know that at your actual IRL gaming table, in a real Pathfinder campaign- did you actually experience Martial/Caster disparity, and if so (or if NOT) why? Not theorycrafting, please. Nothing wrong with theorycrafting but let us stick to actual played games for this, please.

Now, we didn't experience it, and once reason might be is that we always had at least one PC that was a Buffer. At a certain level, Bardsong and/or Haste was a given. Both boost martials more. Could that be the reason? Teamwork?

We did have two dedicated optimizers, but one ALWAYS played spellcasters, the other ALWAYS martials (for this I am counting a Magus as a martial, but yes, they can cast spells, but other big killer PC was a straight fighter).

So, if you have or have not experienced Martial/Caster disparity at your table, let us hear why (or why not).

Real Life. Not Theory. Please.

You should've experienced it in the 15th level PF campaigns, if only for a short while. If you didn't, then the Wizards aren't optimized, so you're not going to see the disparity if you're not playing an optimized game.

Our group played up to 12th level, and I have to say, the only reason my non-optimized Fighter actually did anything worth a damn, especially in comparison to our non-optimized Barbarian, wasn't because of his own class features. It was because I was able to utilize magic items better. Getting magic items that allow me to cast spells like Divine Favor 3/day, Boots of Speed, all of that allowed me to be on par with the other top-tier Martial (who was about as optimized as I was).

That being said, regardless of the optimization, you could've subbed my Fighter out for any Full BAB creature (probably summoned from a spellcaster PC), and the end results would've been exactly the !*@&ing same. Just a body running around like a decapitated chicken, hitting things to turn them into decapitated chickens as well.

Don't get me wrong, it's an amusing little ability for a PC to have, but the narrative power behind it is about as paltry (or is it poultry?) as using a sewing needle against a knife in a fight, or the latter to a gun, which is a staple for improper fight comparisons.

As a side tangent, you see movies all the time where some martial character is able to deflect or avoid the bullets in some manner with their martial skills. Too bad such abilities turn those martials into 1 trick ponies that can't really succeed at anything else in Pathfinder.

Even if there was some sort of benefit the Martials got that the Casters didn't, look at the track record for some of those things. Crane Wing is now a shadow of its former self because of idiotic inflexible PFS gameplay. Vital Strike sucks unless you use Mythic rules, despite the big man Jason Bulmahn wanting Vital Strike to be usable with any single attack activities (such as Charging) in its initial release. Courageous, one of the few enchants that were really good and allowed certain Martials to get a nice little perk during combat, is now effectively gone, because apparently a +1 property applying to certain bonuses is not okay, but a Character Trait that treats Luck Bonuses as being +1 higher (*cough*Divine Favor*cough*) is. There's a lot more that can go on, but if you notice, a lot of Martial options that were once good at release are junk, and very few Martial options that were bad at release started to pick up slightly.

Now look at the Caster track record. By RAW, the cheese of the Wish Snocone Machine is still legit (and is only disallowed because only insane/inexperienced GMs let it happen in their games, they otherwise still run rampant in those games). Gate allows you to summon Martials who have immunities and other powers much better than most any Martial PC could hope to rise up to. Teleport, Scrying, and other such abilities invalidate so many plot points in PF scenarios. Martials also can't bring back the Dead (well, Paladins can, but that's very niche, and nowhere near as effective or plausible). Summons invalidate the purpose of having a Martial 100% of the time; why bother being forced to split the loot when you can just use them as you need them, and not give up a copper of your earnings?

Every single option for casters allows them the same freedoms (and literally zero reservations) of Martials while also getting a freedom that a Martial could only dream of accomplishing in their adventuring lifetime, or by acquiring certain items that they themselves, without serious investing, cannot make.

So, the disparity is certainly there, and the numbers will obviously show. But it all depends on A. if the GM is going to disallow the cheese that is usually involved in the disparity (WISH SNOCONE MACHINES GAIS), B. if the GM is giving Martials the same sort of benefits of Casters to the Martials, or C. if the Casters are not actually bothering to give it their all.

If A occurs, the disparity will never happen. If B occurs, the disparity will never happen. If C occurs, the disparity will never happen. Judging by your viewpoints, A and C were implemented in all manners of play, and B was implemented in your Pathfinder Campaign gameplay. PFS does not show the disparity, and implemented several houserules to cut out the disparity (Divine Protection hax lololololol).

So I suppose I gave a little bit of theory instead of pure actual gameplay, and for that I apologize, though the bit of theory does demonstrate the point I make, and I'm more than easily capable of extrapolating that to non-optimized gameplay.


TarkXT wrote:
Create Mr. Pitt wrote:

As I said above, all of my analysis is based on experience. And you firmly believe random stories people tell on forums to try and convince people that they are right is the strongest evidence of all? I would think that several experiences from a single observer and analysis based on that is better than cherry-picked stories to prove a point.

Seems to work for game designers, politicians and scientists the world over.

I could go over the science of statistics here but that would be fruitless.

Yes, I love statistics. That is a very useful form of analysis. Individual stories from random people each trying to prove a point would a very poor statistical model indeed. I could tell you stories wherein martials and wizards dominate at different levels. My analysis of all of my experiences-the martials need the casters. but often the martials are critical part of the team-is not better than a careful crafted analysis of several experience of large groups of people. But it's infinitely better than random tales people tell to prove their point.


Let's see, I'll just list all my significant games (that I played in, not run, and have carried on for a long time through many levels) in order as best I can manage.

First game ever: Serpent's Skull. No disparity, but EVERYBODY at the table was a newbie, and our Sorcerer was pushed out of the game by 6th level due to GM dickery. Ended at 8th level.

Second game: Rise of the Runelords: Sorcerer and Oracle carried combats between a combination of buffs (Air Walk is the only reason my Barbarian could participate in many fights, though he easily mulched everything he touched) and control spells. out of combat it was no contest. Oracle handled all the face skill needs, though for shiggles I made my Barbarian the trap guy (Trap Breaker and Spell Sunder) and gave him Linguistics, so on very rare occasions I got to solve non-combat problems. Ended at 18th level.

Way of the Wicked: Ironically, my Oracle was the LEAST effective member of the party, since Good Outsiders are frustratingly defensively focused, with huge saves, higher than normal SR, and a tendency to have Globes of Invulnerabiity. My Inquisitor, on the other hand, who came on after the Oracle was killed by a Planetar's Destruction, rocked EVERYTHING. He was better in combat than the Barbarian (who died and was replaced by an Arcanist, who then became the primary buffer/controller and trivialized many encounters), and about equal with the Paladin. Using a Whip vs his nigh-Artifact Bastard Sword. Out of combat his combo of skills and skill boosters, plus utility spells made him the problem solver. Nothing could hide from me. Nothing could lie to me. No creature was unknown to me. Ended at 16th level.

Worth noting that I had been playing for maybe a year and a half at the time and the other players were much more experienced.

Postapocthulhu Pathfinder RAW: Homebrew game. Postapocalyptic because Cthulhu and the other Elder Gods f!&!ed everything up. Casters DOMINATE this game, even before Mythic got involved. My Dark Tapestry Oracle being the least effective of the casters, but still managing to have gone through most of the game with getting injured maybe twice, and havinga variety of spells to destroy encounters with. Not a whole ton of out of combat challenges in this game though, it's basically a split between just RPing, and combat. Currently 20th level, Mythic 10, and has been that way since I joined at 10th level, no Mythic. In the final battle against Cthulhu as we speak.

Kobold Cleaver's Age of Worms: Casters are the most powerful members due to buffs. Most recent encounter was specifically made much tougher due to a lack of buffs, and my Slayer was on the brink of death, the Cleric nearly getting killed saving my ass with a Heal scroll. Just leveled to 9th level, buffs have been majority of combat damage output since about 6th.

Bard is the guy who handles social encounters, with a bit of help from the Cleric. My Slayer handles the dungeon crawling aspects (Trap finding/disabling, enemy detecting, Aberration identifying).

The Warpriest's self-buffs (and dip into Mighty Godling) make him probably the best all around combatant. DPR between him and my Sword and Board user are roughly similar but his saves are miles better and AC is comparable (or EXCEEDS) my Slayer's despite my use of medium armor and a heavy shield vs his no armor.

Disparity exists but in a mostly non-intrusive fashion due to the group being good peeples.

6th level casters and above simply have more options at their disposal in my experience. They tend to have as many skills or more as martial classes, comparable damage output due to buffs, and spells for utility and simply solving problems in ways martials CANNOT.


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I experience it constantly now. Playing a caster is like tackling a home improvement project with a workshop of power tools and unlimited raw resources. But I also have to watch someone else equally enthusiastically try work on this project with me with nothing but a hammer.

When nails need beating, my buddy already has tool in hand and starts wacking. It takes me 6 seconds to turn on my nail-wacking-robot whose not as good at my buddy, but I have like 6 or seven of these babies that I can deploy. Then their is of course all the work that isn't smacking a nail. I admit, there is something admirable seeing my buddy sometime succeed in cutting a board with his hammer or chopping it with his hand, but the cut is never as good and he generally hurts himself.

So as for actual game experience? Every single second. First session in age of worms: I used cold damage on the brown mold. A martial could not have entered that room at that level because they just do not have access to cold damage. Homebrew tower dungeon campaign: While the monk was trying to jump punch thunderbirds, I summoned air elementals. While the archer's arrows were deflected by strong wind, I was summoning air elementals. While the martials were bravely fighting a wind tunnel that was trying to blow them into a sphere of annihilation, I teleported myself and some others past the obstacle. When have the party tried to jump from platform to platform in a specific spell restricted room where the gravity would randomly double, the arcanist and myself causally walked across walls of stone. Another campaign I was a psion: a metal door trapped us in a room and I melted it with acid as it was too hard to break down.

As a caster you have so many options constantly available to you that the mere mortals could never fathom. And believe, I have tried again and again to make PF/3.5 martials work. I'm sick of them. I'm sick of buff mancers. For the most part I stick to summoning focused characters with lots of utility spells. I let summons deal with the cluster-F of combat. The martials have their moment in the sun then us casters handle the rest of the campaign with the rare skill check assist. Could I dominate the combat more if I tried? Yes. I wouldn't even have to change my build. My current strategy is round 1: summon, round 2: cast invisibility and hide. Turns out the perfect monster for an encounter is still devastating.


So I'm going to preface this with a quick caveat. In my group, the players most likely to play martials also had the lowest system mastery.

From 3.5 I used original druid wildshape to make pretty much all martials dealing damage in melee obsolete (since it replaced stats instead of added). The victims were a fighter and monk.

From pathfinder two games ago I played a standard control wizard. I'd throw out buffs for the first couple rounds unless things looked actually dangerous, then I'd cast Dazing Ball Lightning (substituted as necessary with a metamagic rod). So the martials did always do the killing (unless me or the cleric felt like summoning) but only because I could literally prevent the opponent from doing anything at all. At least one of the martials (the cavalier) picked this up but the other two (fighter and master chymist) never noticed at all. To be fair, the fighter also didn't have a single ranged weapon despite being over level 10. When the cavalier asked why I was holding back I said because I had to make the fighter feel like he was doing something. She understood.

From the most recent pathfinder game the melee druid has been fairly regularly showing up the magus who focused on just doing damage (same player as the fighter from before). Not even using the druid spells, though he does cast Greater Magic Fang. The spells are something we have to remind him he has and when he does it's fairly spectacular. Dropping a hurricane on the enemy camp, creating a 200 foot wall of fire to cut off escape, raining fire down on an enemy army, it was pretty awesome. Oh, and he's forgotten about his animal companion for the last like five or six levels. Didn't feel like updating it so he hasn't been using it.

Same game the ninja rebuilt to be an investigator (around level 11) because he was tired of all the things that could see invisibility. With the investigator he even took power attack because he felt like he could actually get away with using it. He did this in part because the paladin and barbarian put out a lot more damage than him. He's still not entirely happy with the investigator but he's happier than he was with the ninja. Now his damage only drops if they're immune to precision damage (which is a much lower subset than immune to sneak attack and invisibility). And inspiration is worlds better than... well, more skill points. This one is more of a martial/martial disparity though. To be fair, when people talk about caster/martial disparity they're usually leaving off the 4th level casters and the barbarian. Mostly because those ones are actually good.


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Jiggy wrote:
I could list off more stories of real, actual gameplay, but what's the point? Everyone who says that a caster/martial disparity exists has played and/or GM'd Pathfinder. We're not talking about a group of people who read the CRB but haven't played, and declared that they know what's up better than the actual players. Those who acknowledge the disparity ARE actual players, whether others can accept it or not.

And those who have NOT seen the disparity in their games are also actual players.

Let us not attack the other side, nor even take sides. What we are seeing here is that some players see a disparity and others don't. I am trying to see why. Both sides have a lot of experience.

This is why I'd like to keep this to actual game play, instead of theorycrafting. We have quite a few threads about that already, we don't need to continue the same debate here.

One reason I have seen is that those who dont think there's much of a disparity look upon PF/D&D as a TEAM game, and if the martial is super at dealing DPR- and the player playing that PC is happy doing that- then there's no disparity. The TEAM is strong, all the players are happy.

In other cases, the disparity doesnt happen much as the players are friends, and try to get along and "play happy".

Many seem to say the disparity only shows up at higher levels, levels beyond most AP;s and beyond where most games are played. This seems to be my experience as well.

Car we keep the discussion on a friendly level, please, less antagonistic posts? More helpful discussion. Please.


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DrDeth wrote:


One reason I have seen is that those who dont think there's much of a disparity look upon PF/D&D as a TEAM game, and if the martial is super at dealing DPR- and the player playing that PC is happy doing that- then there's no disparity. The TEAM is strong, all the players are happy.

In other cases, the disparity doesnt happen much as the players are friends, and try to get along and "play happy".

The issue with these two is that they kind of miss the point.

It's a thing that exists even when you're fine with it. Like my Age of Worms game, everybody's cool with everyone else.

I'm fine with the Cleric and Bard carrying the team on their skinny shoulders. Doesn't mean they aren't, though.

I have fun playing the simple beatstick, and the other people usually appreciate having one, but that doesn't mean I can't look at the rest of the party and recognize I'm contributing the least resources to the party by being that.

Teamwork is great! Fun is great! You can have both DESPITE recognizing the gap in options and raw potential between casters and non-casters.


So to clarify your position, Rynjin, are you saying that you are perfectly happy despite recognizing the gap, or that you are content despite the gap but wish to see the gap shrunk/eliminated?


kyrt-ryder wrote:
So to clarify your position, Rynjin, are you saying that you are perfectly happy despite recognizing the gap, or that you are content despite the gap but wish to see the gap shrunk/eliminated?

The latter.

Shrinking the gap is nothing but a win-win for everyone.

I will say I'm also not perfectly content ALL the time.

In that same game I'm kind of peeved that with buffs (that he provides) the Warpriest can far exceed my AC without really trying...when I'm somewhat of an AC focused character. But that's more a function of that Godling class than his casting ability, the casting just exacerbates the issue.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

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Rynjin wrote:
DrDeth wrote:


One reason I have seen is that those who dont think there's much of a disparity look upon PF/D&D as a TEAM game, and if the martial is super at dealing DPR- and the player playing that PC is happy doing that- then there's no disparity. The TEAM is strong, all the players are happy.

In other cases, the disparity doesnt happen much as the players are friends, and try to get along and "play happy".

The issue with these two is that they kind of miss the point.

It's a thing that exists even when you're fine with it. Like my Age of Worms game, everybody's cool with everyone else.

I'm fine with the Cleric and Bard carrying the team on their skinny shoulders. Doesn't mean they aren't, though.

I have fun playing the simple beatstick, and the other people usually appreciate having one, but that doesn't mean I can't look at the rest of the party and recognize I'm contributing the least resources to the party by being that.

Teamwork is great! Fun is great! You can have both DESPITE recognizing the gap in options and raw potential between casters and non-casters.

I've said it before, there's a difference between charity and teamwork. Teamwork is 4 individuals with disparate skill sets combining to make a greater whole. Charity is a superior individual playing down to make an inferior individual feel better about their choices. With real teamwork, you get 1+1=3. With charity, you're lucky if you get 2, but more likely to get 1.5.

Anyways, to the topic. I run an organized play event every week at our local game store. When I say "organized" I don't mean PFS, I mean an event I organized with the store management and local GMs. We see a lot of new players, and they tend to fall into one of two groups; guys who saw us gaming while playing Magic: The Gathering and wanted to try the game out, and walk-ins who saw us having fun, joined to play with a pregen, and then decided to make their own character. The MtG guys tend to research their characters the same way they research their decks, looking online to see what all the options are and getting some tips on how to bring the various pieces together. The walk-ins typically make whatever seemed cool (usually a Fighter who's supposed to be Conan, or a Drizzt clone, or the dwarf from Golden Axe - true story).

This leads to a situation where I am constantly working to minimize the disparity that threatens to undermine the gaming experience. These MtG guys know how to translate their "answer to anything" decks into competent spellcasters, and a lot of times they aren't playing "the wizard", they're playing "magical thief" or "magical warrior" or "the First Hokage from Naruto". This often leads to situations where I've got casters who overlap with martials and just completely show them up.
The other week it was a Magus with a scimitar who was supposed to be some middle-eastern anime assassin I'd never heard of who was out-fighting the Fighter with intelligent use of Spell Combat and then out-sneaking the Rogue with vanish. We did 4 combats and an extended castle infiltration, and he took less damage, defeated more enemies, and solved more challenges then the other two combined, just by virtue of his build and options.
Just the other day, it was a Wood Elementalist who was supposed to be a "ninja". In true SSDD fashion, he completely rocked "being a Rogue" way better then the actual Rogue at the table, and the two of them were actually trying to work in tandem. Things just kept coming up; difficult climb left the Rogue stymied, wizard spider climbs up and has the door unlocked before the Rogue and the others get there. Wizard and Rogue are scouting ahead, hear enemies coming, Wizard vanishes, Rogue is caught hiding under a desk. Embarrassingly, Rogue can't pick lock on cell because guards took his thieve's tools and he keeps missing the DC, wizard shows up and casts knock, instantly freeing Rogue.

And those are just two examples of things I see all the time amongst people who've never played the game before (spontaneously occurring disparity, if you will). Yes, part of the difference is system mastery, but the biggest part of the system mastery advantage seems to be that some guys recognize that a +20 when you need it is better than a +5 whether you do or don't (i.e. magical limited resources beat the snot out of mundane unlimited ones).


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DrDeth wrote:
I have played in three PF campaigns now, going to 7th, 11th and 15th level. No sign of the Martial/Caster disparity

I've seen it once but I have seen suggestions that it exists other times as well. This is, of course, discounting the outlier classes (APG summoner, CRB rogue) as that is class disaprity not martial/caster disparity.

The one time I saw it was on a plane shifting Oracle. When facing single opponents they were able to end the fight in one round. The lesson learned was to not throw single monsters at the party. I haven't ever seen a non-spellcaster consistently be able to do that.

At low levels casters can hit the "I win" button with spells like sleep and colour spray. However this resource is sufficiently limited that they can't do it too many times so I consider no disparity there as the caster gets relegated to "I use a crossbow/ineffective cantrip/ineffective class feature."

Spellcasters are definitely mandatory at higher levels for their ability to cast healing spells as needed (no. I'm not talking about healing HP damage, but all the other spells they have). Martials are never considered mandatory. So there is a level of disparity there, but it's one that I find to be rather minor.

The biggest disparity I've seen is between optimised and non-optimised characters. Give a bad player (not a new player, a bad one) a martial character and they'll suck. Give them a caster and there is a chance they will blindly fall upon the option that happens to allow them to actually contributes. I'm thinking specifically of the witch here. That is a class that is very friendly to "bad players". The witch is by no means the most powerful class (put the witch and any other character in the hands of two equally skilled optimisers and my experience has been the witch will lose more often than she doesn't). What the witch has is a few very effective toys that come from a pool that has a limited number of options. The witch gets to dip into this pool sufficient times that statistically speaking the player is likely to blindly choose at least one of the good options.

However optimised characters can absolutely destroy anything resembling a level appropriate challenge. If you only have optimised characters and start throwing level inappropriate challenges at them then you get rocket tag where whoever goes first wins. Spellcasters might have a theoretical higher ceiling than martial characters. However it doesn't matter, because once any class* reaches a certain point, any further optimisation is wasted because you've already built a character than can overcome any challenge. Some of the most powerful characters I've seen have been fighters (no archetypes taken).

I have seen all this happen in actual games.

* Assuming you use all of the books in the core line, if not all books that Paizo produces. The CRB rogue is one possible exception to this.


Oh, if we're talking about it in the general sense then here's my conditions: we're all friends; we've done both high level and low level games; and the group consists of a couple people who know the system pretty well, a powergamer, a bad munchkin (well, munchkin-lite), a "little brother", and a newbie.

Just because we're friends doesn't suddenly mean I don't recognize that magic is a lot more effective. Not sure why this would be a thing. My fun isn't negatively impacted by my friends being able to do more but it sure as @#$% is impacted by my not actually being able to do much, and limiting my class choices if I want to actually do anything is just as much caster/martial disparity as anything else.

Yes, problems are a lot worse at high levels than low levels. Doesn't mean a good melee druid doesn't destroy a poorly built paladin/magus at level 4. Then when pounce comes online at level 6, everyone who depends on full attacks feels... well, lame. This is from my last pathfinder game. When the paladin builds for lay on hands and grabs heroic defiance at level 4 they get to go toe-to-toe with things that will destroy the other party members and have like, triple their health in healing. The barbarian was a little jealous.

What follows are my best guesses based on how they've responded in the past.

The powergamer insists on having the highest numbers or being the best (and this is always combat) but isn't really that good, he would be absolutely crushed if he realized people were holding back and he still couldn't beat them. He doesn't like losing, and losing to someone who's already pulling their weight in the party would be worse.

The munchkin is a little harder to classify, and munchkin is probably overkill. He tends to read things online and then try to do them. He usually doesn't understand the underlying mechanics or that unclear stuff could have a different interpretation. He's usually shut down with "are you okay with the enemies being able to do this?" When he thinks he has good numbers he tends to be competitive, he was not happy when magic could beat him at the damage dealing game. His general response to being beaten, however, is envy, and he tries to emulate however he was beaten last time (only sometimes successfully).

The "little brother" has fun as long as he doesn't have to think too much or learn too many fiddly bits. Honestly, he could have the same amount of fun playing a fighter as a class with at-will wish. Probably the same amount of power too, honestly.

The newbie likes to feel like she's contributing. She's okay with a warrior as long as she's actually hitting things and doing damage. Because I helped her build the character she could do that but she saw how badly the powergamer turned out without that guidance (no ranged weapon at level 15, seriously). Her forays into spellcasting have been hampered by her lack of system knowledge but she seems happy to always have something she can do.

The two with system mastery enjoy playing with complex systems and have fun making characters and putting them into practice. This is a bit of a simplification since they're not exactly the same but the general enjoyment is the same. I'm not aware of any resentment to the players that can't keep up but at least once some frustration with having to change their concept to cover for the other players (who mostly built solo characters) was expressed. That frustration was with the other players and the system itself, since the players built one-trick ponies (and that one trick was some kind of damage) and couldn't really do much outside their one trick (and the system totally allowed that).

So the overall breakdown appears to be that the powergamer is only happy with martials as long as they're not reminded CMD exists, the munchkin is similar to the powergamer, the "little brother" would be fine with magical tea-time, the newbie doesn't care as long as they're actually contributing, and the two people with system mastery would prefer a system where their options were not so seriously limited by whether they had magic or not and what classes the other people choose. I can't think of any of these players who would mind if you gave martials more options, though the powergamer and munchkin might care if you took options away from the casters (and they had built one).


Jiggy wrote:

Then there was my cleric. I didn't even focus on his spellcasting that much: he was a melee cleric. He typically (this was in PFS) had the highest AC at the table, the highest attack bonus at the table, enough damage per hit that you couldn't just ignore him, and could do things in combat besides full-attack. Oh, too dangerous to go toe-to-toe with (like a fiendish Titan Centipede, or an ooze that deals CON drain when you hit it)? I can literally just send you to hell. Oh, the guy's in the air? I can just walk up the air to hit you. Oh, you're trying to spam deeper darkness? I can completely negate it (Sun domain). Oh, somebody took a nasty poison/disease/affliction? I can just tell it to go away. Oh, there's harpies? Silence. Oh, someone got trapped behind a wall of stone? Good thing I have stone shape prepped. And that's before we even get to my scrolls. Seriously, I had such an easy time being as good a fighter as a fighter, that I had spell slots left over to carry answers to all kinds of nasty situations we might encounter.

Meanwhile, I could buff any of my or a teammate's social skills through the roof via a domain power, I could ask Iomedae what's coming up today and actually get an answer, I could bypass all those obstacles that made my fighter feel silly. I got to do all the fighting my fighter did without ever being sidelined like I was with the fighter. There was no challenge my cleric couldn't face. (And before you ask, no, I wasn't being a dick and deliberately trying to sideline other people's characters. I always made sure to give other people the chance to do stuff first, then stepped up if they couldn't do it. People liked, requested, and cheered for having this character at the table.)

I run a lot of PFS which is a rule set in which caster power is significantly limited by the lack of spell effects carrying over from one game to the next. I run quite a lot of high level PFS, lots of 7-11 and quite a few high level modules and I see it all the time. Martial characters can do a lot of damage, I don't think anyone disputes that. Melee types struggle as levels increase as enemies are often far more mobile. But, when we talk about caster-martial disparity we aren't talking about the ability to deal damage. We are talking about the ability to solve problems, whether they be combat encounters, intrigues, reconnaissance, information gathering, whatever it happens to be.

And there martial characters largely fall flat compared to the sheer breadth of options brought by having access to spells. However, even where we are talking about in combat the disparity exists. Martials are largely doing a bunch of damage to a single target or maybe grappling/dirty tricking a single target.

The problem is of course that damage orientated druids, clerics, bards, summoners etc are doing comparable or greater physical damage while control orientated casters are simply shutting down whole encounters.

Utimately there is very little mechanical reason to play a Monk, Fighter, Rogue, Samurai etc over classes who can cover their niche and much more besides at the same time. That doesn't mean you shouldn't play them, you can have a lot of fun playing such characters, but the reality is what you are capable of doing can easily be eclipsed by many other classes often unintentionally.


My experiences:
As a player in a low optimized game, the druid just handwaved away most problems
(the player had done his homework, the gm wasn't thinking 3-d all the time)
the only reason the rogue wasn't overshadowed was because of good gming,
and a group that was good on roleplay and teamwork.
My paladin deliberatly set the rogue up so she could have her own moments to shine - sometimes by incouraging to split the party, or by shushing the druid when she was doing her awesome skill-based stuff.

As a gm in a homebrew with (I'll admit) changing houserules and character creation boundries
(we've been trying out things and learning along the way)
I have a Rogue that shines as the coolest character in the group (we all think so) who handles himself nicely in combat.
The Magus of the group is at the same time overshadowing the bard and alchemist simply becase the player in question is an optimizer and he has picked his buff and utility spells very smartly
(he sometimes refer to his character as "the attack helicopter"-jokingly; his fall-back tactic when things hit him to hard in combat - he's going to be so annoyed when he meets a proper archer in the game, she will make him cry/panick).
After one encounter with a dragon the group is noticing (I hope) how fragile a group of d8 6th lvl caster are against good all fashioned hp damage when they can't use their favorite tricks.

All in all, I've noticed some small things, but I feel like (for my groups) that the biggest deciding factor is the players and their system mastery, not the class necessarily.
In our case; optimizers with caster levels often overshadows players with low system mastery, regardless of class.

(I mean ... the player with the Alchemist character has some days where he can't find his ass with a mirror and a map, so regardless of the class - the player is very unoptimized. technically he should be outshining the rogue, practically he is only outshining random npcs and some cohorts )

That is something I feel not many have mentioned in their experiences: it is true that a prepared caster with initiative can wreck challenges and outshine others (if the player is good enough to take advantage)
- but what about the other situations?
Ambushes,
mistakes,
unexpected developments,
biting over more than you can chew;

players do this (often) and when something goes wrong or you get sideswiped it's nice to have some sturdier teammembers.
Someone who don't need to buff up before acting, who can take a giants axe to the face (or a full frontal fireball) - spit out some teeth - and then shield the rest of the squishies and get to buisness while they pick up their jaw/balls.

Doesn't that happen to your games? are your players all clairvoyant?


"Move action, Color Spray, fight is over".

"Glitterdust, DC F@$& You. Clean-up in aisle 3".

"We're fighting a flying caster with reach, I ain't got time to cast Fly on you".


11 people marked this as a favorite.
DrDeth wrote:
Can we keep the discussion on a friendly level, please, less antagonistic posts? More helpful discussion. Please.

Seriously? You say this just a couple lines after implying those who see the disparity are not playing a team game and/or are not friends with their fellow players... Seriously?

DrDeth wrote:

One reason I have seen is that those who dont think there's much of a disparity look upon PF/D&D as a TEAM game, and if the martial is super at dealing DPR- and the player playing that PC is happy doing that- then there's no disparity. The TEAM is strong, all the players are happy.

In other cases, the disparity doesnt happen much as the players are friends, and try to get along and "play happy".

Really... Could this be more condescending?

"You see, there is no problem with Pathfinder balance... It's just that you and your friends (and by friends, I mean people you're actually competing against) are playing the game wrong. It's a TEAM GAME, not the free-for-all competition you certainly play.".

Classic Dr.Deth "logic": If it doesn't match his experience, it's because other people are doing it wrong or don't actually play the game.

To hell with that!

If you enjoy being overshadowed and/or overshadowing your friends, good for you! Meanwhile, I prefer team games where everyone can collaborate instead of being a resource-draining weight to be carried around.


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Lemmy wrote:

Really... Could this be more condescending?

"You see, there is no problem with Pathfinder balance... It's just that you and your friends (and by friends, I mean people you're actually competing against) are playing the game wrong. It's a TEAM GAME, not the free-for-all competition you certainly play.".

Classic Dr.Deth "logic": If it doesn't match his experience, it's because other people are doing it wrong or don't actually play the game.

So very much this.


Lets have a look and see who is the best at dealing with these situations shall we:

LuxuriantOak wrote:
Ambushes

Hmm, who will do better, the fighter with a Wisdom of maybe 12 and 2sp/level or the Wizard who can trivially maximise Perception, the Diviner who can act in the surprise round anyway and the Wis focused Cleric or Druid?

Quote:
mistakes,

Who does best here? The martial character whose capabilities are fixed to a short list of class abilities and feats which have little direct impact or the caster who might have a dozen or more individual options prepared together with a grab bag of scrolls they can use, unlike the martial who has to sink a load of their very limited skill points into UMD and an otherwise useless to them Charisma stat.

Quote:

unexpected developments

biting over more than you can chew

See above, people who come with a whole grab bag of options are better at dealing with difficult or unexpected situations than people who are limited to class features like Bravery and feats which are simply too limited in scope.

Or rather, martial orientated feats are too limited in scope. Casters grab things like Summon Good Monster adding extra versatility like the Djinns wind walk from level 9.

Also the idea that spellcasters are squishier than martials is a myth. Druids and Clerics play the AC game as well as if not better than martials character and arcane casters easily employ non AC related defences which are significantly more effective.


In my experience disparity is felt when:

The caster can also do martial damage on a par with the martial.

The caster is optimised for save-or-suck to a sufficient extent they become reliable spells rather than 50-50 gambles.

The martial is a core Rogue.

Disparity is not felt when:

The caster conserves spells, in case they're going to be needed later, and lets the martials deal with most of the fights with minimal assistance.

The caster plays a support/buffing/condition removal role, and lets the martials do all the damage.

The martial players come up with plans that utilise caster abilities and think of these abilities as party resources rather than character resources.


So, I thought I would post more specific recent examples from our Rise of the Runelords game. Yes, I am aware that this scenario plays strongly to my fighter's strengths, and also that a random anecdote doesn't refute the argument, but I thought it might be nice to have at least one specific example of a fighter being useful. Lengthy Spoilers for Skinsaw murders (hope I spoiler tag this right, posting from my phone):

Skinsaw Murders:
Our party consists of a rogue, a melee combat focused druid, and a divination arcanist. I am a trip reach build with a guisarme. We were doing the portion of the adventure with misgivings and facing the skinsaw man. We are level 5, 15 point buy, mostly core except the arcanist.

The adventuring day started by heading south of sandpoint to investigate the old foxglove manor. En route, we discover the farms are being attacked, so we investigate.

The farm fight involves a bunch of encounters with small groups of ghouls. I am playing a reach trip fighter, and can trip a ghoul on a 2 and one shot them with aoos on a 4 with power attack. Most of the encounters just involve me blocking the opponent from getting in range of anyone else, they try and walk through the threatened range and immediately die.

Ghouls ambush the party, but there was sufficient space between me and cover that the ones that came after me die trying to approach. The rest of the party gets to do things, but the arcanist gets paralyzed and needs saving, which I do. I take no damage, rogue and arcanist get hurt a little.

We face 3 ghouls and a ghast hiding in ambush in a farmhouse. I lead, explicitly check under a table 10 feet away and find a ghoul waiting to ambush if I walked to the table. Win init, one shot the ghoul, 5 ft step back out the door. Ghoul runs to attack, aoo kills it. Second ghoul does the same. Ghast decides trying to run up to me is a bad idea (good choice, it would have been tripped and surrounded, then destroyed), but there isn't another way out. It moves back to try and break a window and escape out the back. Druid hits it with a sling for 6, I follow it in and hit it for 23.

We go to the haunted house. I get haunted, drag the arcanist out towards a group of carrion storms. I charge one and one shot it.
Another dies from an aoo approaching me. The druid melees with one but doesn't kill it, arcanist summons an air elemental that does a decent job of handling the last. I finish the one fighting the druid, everyone finishes the other. I am again unhurt.

I get haunted again and try and kill the nearest female, our rogue. The dm let's me know that I would attack myself if there were no women, so the rogues gender ends up saving my life. She gets lucky and is able to hide from me until the curse wears off.

We face another group of 4 ghouls, I kill 1, one gets through my threatened area due to cover from the passage geometry but misses then dies on my next turn. the other two flank the group through a side passage and get killed by the rogue and druid. We face another group of 4 but in much less favorable terrain for them. All 4 die to 3 aoos + readied attack.

We get to the boss fight, 4 ghasts and the skinsaw man, we have the revnant fighting him. Ghasts get tripped and killed on aoo standing by me and druids pet. The arcanist gives me a prot evil (which is critical, since it stops me from getting hit with a compulsion from the haunt in the room) and then summons earth elementals. The space we fight in is constrained so the rogue and druid sit out the first few rounds, but there ends up being a break in the combat for talking where everyone gets in the room and the earth elementals run out of time. Fight resumes, I roll a bunch of 4s and fail to do much of anything, but pick off one of the ghasts with an aoo trip and help from the druids pet while the rogue and druid finish the last ghast. The rogue is getting focused by the boss, gets saved by an invisibility from the arcanist. I take a hit from the boss, the arcanist finishes him with magic missiles while the druid and I block for him.

we continue exploring and encounter the giant undead direbat. It screeches, I pass the fort save. It has no other ranged attacks so closes to melee, I attack it for 18, druid tries to close to combat and gets knocked down to 6 hp and paralyzed. I critical hit it for 63, fight over.

That's where we are now. My takeaways from this:

1) Reach is really good
2) this enemy mix was particularly weak to me
3) Running out of spells can actually matter at low levels. The arcanist could have handled most of the encounters with groups of ghouls with some additional danger, but would have been drained dry long before this sequence of encounters would finish.
4) the arcanist was critical for light sources so I could see to take aoos, and for a clutch prot evil and invisibility. The druid did fine in combat and provided useful healing but did significantly less damage. I am not sure how to help the rogue do better in combat; the reach weapon creates a very distinct our side-their side dynamic that makes flanking difficult in many fights. She does fine if we can establish a flank though.
5) I am definitely weak to will saves. Given how well the non-will save portions of combat went though, I can't really complain.
6) I am aware that this one sequence doesn't invalidate the argument or anything. It is, however, fairly representative of my experience with combats in this campaign where I don't get hit with will based save or suck effects. I thought it might be nice to have at least one concrete example of a fighter being kind of important.
7) I do expect to get overshadowed by the arcanist at least eventually, as he is decently optimized. I will be interested in seeing when that ends up actually happening.


I've seen consistent patterns of the disparity itself existing, both as a player and as a DM. I can list examples once I get home from work, provided I have the energy left to do so.


Ssalarn wrote:
Rynjin wrote:
DrDeth wrote:


One reason I have seen is that those who dont think there's much of a disparity look upon PF/D&D as a TEAM game, and if the martial is super at dealing DPR- and the player playing that PC is happy doing that- then there's no disparity. The TEAM is strong, all the players are happy.

In other cases, the disparity doesnt happen much as the players are friends, and try to get along and "play happy".

The issue with these two is that they kind of miss the point.

It's a thing that exists even when you're fine with it. Like my Age of Worms game, everybody's cool with everyone else.

I'm fine with the Cleric and Bard carrying the team on their skinny shoulders. Doesn't mean they aren't, though.

I have fun playing the simple beatstick, and the other people usually appreciate having one, but that doesn't mean I can't look at the rest of the party and recognize I'm contributing the least resources to the party by being that.

Teamwork is great! Fun is great! You can have both DESPITE recognizing the gap in options and raw potential between casters and non-casters.

I've said it before, there's a difference between charity and teamwork. Teamwork is 4 individuals with disparate skill sets combining to make a greater whole. Charity is a superior individual playing down to make an inferior individual feel better about their choices. With real teamwork, you get 1+1=3. With charity, you're lucky if you get 2, but more likely to get 1.5.

I think there's an explanation that includes both the idea of teamwork and charity.

Convenience.

Let's say you can summon an army of demons, undead, and what not to basically run rampant all over an encounter.

The trouble is that tends to take time, in-game resources, and a smart GM is watching you like a hawk or coming up wiht incentives to prevent you from going overboard.

Now, we've all but acknowledged that martials are good at killing things, the trick is getting there and often staying there to do it. So you consider what he needs to get there.

Often it's simply more resource efficient to throw a buff on what you already have rather than spend resources on getting something else, even if that something else is superior. The martial is there. It's a non-action for the fighter to simply exist And as a PC isn't subject to the gm's flights of fancy about how they should act in any given moment.

Ultimately a martial's life is cheap from the perspective of a wizard who has to spend real money and effort dealing with demons.

Now I have seen where the caster's have progressed to the point where the martial was no longer necessary. Having a veritable army of undead thanks to that martial's efforts can do that.


3 man party, Archeologist Bard (me), Cleric and Fighter 1-12+ ongoing campaign right now.

Fighter is absolutely useless in any fight we have with anything that is not a dumb brute, despite having most of our magic items, having absurd rolled stats, and being the most important figure in the story. The party effectiveness drops massively any time we run out of spells (which does happen, mostly because the DM doesn't let us buy or craft consumables and there's like, 0 downtime so far), but there's really no point in pushing on because it ends with having to emergency teleport out.

Fighter almost ragequit when 3 fights in a row ended with him being paralyzed/dominated, constantly fails for traps, has no skills to help with anything other than using nature for tracking because he took a level in ranger.

He does do a lot of damage when he can stand still and full attack, and there was one point where he surprised the DM by having a respectable Stealth roll (because high stats+random loot+armor training) despite wearing plate.

My archeologist and the cleric handle fights and out of combat pretty well, although the cleric does run out of spells often (no downtime to craft+no magic shops+the DM simply won't let him recover spells).

The disparity was most stinging when the fighter realized that in our fight vs the BBEG Lich, he'll absolutely be playing second fiddle, if at all. Without our spells, he has no chance of even touching the guy. Not being able to buy specialized magic items really hurts him as well (without a CLW our healing was limited until it dropped as random loot, so after the cleric ran out of channel he had to waste slots on healing spells, which meant he couldn't support us as well in combat).


LoneKnave wrote:
The disparity was most stinging when the fighter realized that in our fight vs the BBEG Lich, he'll absolutely be playing second fiddle, if at all. Without our spells, he has no chance of even touching the guy.

Why? In a standard PF campaign the fighter should be able to:

Destroy the lich with blunt arrows from a magic bow (or regular arrows plus Clustered Shot).

Destroy the lich in melee - possibly requiring Air Walk, Blessings of Fervor, or whatever from the cleric to get close enough, or drinking a Fly potion if the cleric is busy - and probably still able to do about 50% of normal damage if not using a blunt weapon.


andreww wrote:

Lets have a look and see who is the best at dealing with these situations shall we:

LuxuriantOak wrote:
Ambushes

Hmm, who will do better, the fighter with a Wisdom of maybe 12 and 2sp/level or the Wizard who can trivially maximise Perception, the Diviner who can act in the surprise round anyway and the Wis focused Cleric or Druid?

Quote:
mistakes,

Who does best here? The martial character whose capabilities are fixed to a short list of class abilities and feats which have little direct impact or the caster who might have a dozen or more individual options prepared together with a grab bag of scrolls they can use, unlike the martial who has to sink a load of their very limited skill points into UMD and an otherwise useless to them Charisma stat.

Quote:

unexpected developments

biting over more than you can chew

See above, people who come with a whole grab bag of options are better at dealing with difficult or unexpected situations than people who are limited to class features like Bravery and feats which are simply too limited in scope.

Or rather, martial orientated feats are too limited in scope. Casters grab things like Summon Good Monster adding extra versatility like the Djinns wind walk from level 9.

Also the idea that spellcasters are squishier than martials is a myth. Druids and Clerics play the AC game as well as if not better than martials character and arcane casters easily employ non AC related defences which are significantly more effective.

I think I see what you're getting at here, but I think you might be misunderstanding what I'm hinting at which in a single word would maybe be: Survivability.

As an example:
The party gets ambushed! (possible due to their own mistakes)
a nasty area effect hits the whole group, followed by charging ... I dunno ... Minotaurs!
the fireball does somwhere past 50 hp damage to those who fail their save (I pulled this number from thin air, don't overthink it) and if the charging Ox-men hit they have some sort of die + a larger static modifier - lets say it's ... 1d10+14
if the whole group failed their save and gets hit with 1 attack (I haven't specified how many players or enemies ther is, not planning to)
-we're looking at somwhere around 65-74 hp damage.
In many cases (not all) that is enough to knock out or even kill a wizard, or a inquisitor or whatever (because? because d6 or d8 hit dice)

-but the Rogue is fine, evasion says so.
-and the fighter, he can take some more of that (d10 hit die), and would like to show mister moo what he feels about this improper ambush.

-of course this is without getting into minute details like con modifiers and the results of hp rolls and so on.

get my point? sometimes it's not about being optimal or making the right choice. Mirror image only works after you've cast it, flying doesn't help against an arrow to the eye.
sometimes it's about surviving to the next round and forming a battle plan along the way.
If everybody in the group are made of paper then sometimes that second round won't come (or it will, but it will be one filled with coup de graces).


Matthew Downie wrote:
LoneKnave wrote:
The disparity was most stinging when the fighter realized that in our fight vs the BBEG Lich, he'll absolutely be playing second fiddle, if at all. Without our spells, he has no chance of even touching the guy.

Why? In a standard PF campaign the fighter should be able to:

Destroy the lich with blunt arrows from a magic bow (or regular arrows plus Clustered Shot).

Destroy the lich in melee - possibly requiring Air Walk, Blessings of Fervor, or whatever from the cleric to get close enough, or drinking a Fly potion if the cleric is busy - and probably still able to do about 50% of normal damage if not using a blunt weapon.

He doesn't have a magic bow and isn't archery specced. Sadly, unlike the cleric, he can't just pray for new feats every day. We also fought the lich in a building, with a lot of cover.

The lich started the fight by using a cloudkill, obscuring his view, along with pre-buffing a bit. He has no way of countering cloudkill's miss chance at all, not to mention just knowing where to attack, and having to wade in means he's taking steady con damage (that he can't heal). He got tagged with a paralyzing touch, and failed a save, and so had to stand in the fog until I dragged him out.

The lich also has a perchant for teleporting/dimension dooring away. Which he can't do s*%* about without me silencing the lich or the Cleric anchoring him.

Also, I think we can just ignore the part where you say the fighter can handle a challenge if the cleric buffs him as if that illustrated your point, not mine.

PS.: I find it ironic when OP asks for actual in play disparity (or the feeling anyway) to counter theorycraft, and when examples are made people try to argue them away using theorycraft.


I have seen/felt the disparity several times in real play:

Example 1:
In one game we played we started out with some martials and some casters. Over the course of the adventure the martials got more and more bored because they were more and more outclassed. One ended up playing a barbarian with some houserules to help him out, the other switched to full caster. A third changed from magus to witch so from martial/caster hybrid to pure caster.

The casters just dominated everything. No one ever still thought about climbing any walls as we could just fly over.
Haste was cast more seldom because with all the casters blessing of fervor was just better.
We did not always have 15min work days, there were some dungeons there, too. One big dungeon was full of undead and still the witch did not run out of useful things to do in combat.

Example 2:
I once played a first level earth wizard with good strength, a flail (from race), a pig familiar and peasant's clothes. He was not only the most flavorful pc, but he was the strongest pc by far from level 1 on. He could not only hit in melee nearly as good as a fighter, he had a similar armor (mage armor), his cantrips to solve out of combat stuff and his acid cloud to win difficult fights.

Example 3:
In a game where casters get lower PB than non casters we had a sorc, an investigator, a rogue and a homebrew wildshape capable martial without spells. Both the rogue and the martial were, in my opinion overshadowed by the investigator. The rogue both in and out of combat, the homebrew clearly out of combat but sometimes in combat as well. And that was despite the investigator handing out infusions to the party.

Example 4: Another game with different PB for different classes after some time no one wanted to play pure martials anymore because they died too easily. Now I decided to build a barbarian with superstition and the celestial totem line. I think I'll do well. But as has been often said the barbarian is the strongest martial.


LuxuriantOak wrote:

As an example:

The party gets ambushed! (possible due to their own mistakes)
a nasty area effect hits the whole group, followed by charging ... I dunno ... Minotaurs!
the fireball does somwhere past 50 hp damage to those who fail their save (I pulled this number from thin air, don't overthink it) and if the charging Ox-men hit they have some sort of die + a larger static modifier - lets say it's ... 1d10+14
if the whole group failed their save and gets hit with 1 attack (I haven't specified how many players or enemies ther is, not planning to)
-we're looking at somwhere around 65-74 hp damage.
In many cases (not all) that is enough to knock out or even kill a wizard, or a inquisitor or whatever (because? because d6 or d8 hit dice)

-but the Rogue is fine, evasion says so.
-and the fighter, he can take some more of that (d10 hit die), and would like to show mister moo what he feels about this improper ambush.

-of course this is without getting into minute details like con modifiers and the results of hp rolls and so on.

get my point? sometimes it's not about being optimal or making the right choice. Mirror image only works after you've cast it, flying doesn't help against an arrow to the eye.
sometimes it's about surviving to the next round and forming a battle plan along the way.
If everybody in the group are made of paper then sometimes that second round won't come (or it will, but it will be one filled with coup de graces).

Except, well, the fighters die shortly afterwards in that scenario.

If you assume everyone ate that boat load of damage at the start (except the rogue as you said) and you drop two or three party members at the start after you jump them with a bunch of minotaurs?

That party is screwed.

That's why these scenarios boggle me when they're brought up. Killing the wizard doesn't empower the fighter it just makes the fight so much more difficult to win.

Here's a fun scenario what if we just blew up the fighter. What happens?

Edit: I will say the two exceptions in this case are the barbarian and the paladin. The paladin by dint of being abel to instantly revive everyone afterwards (channel energy). And the barbarian by sheer dint of being crazy.


I played a diviner wizard from level 2 - 11 or so in a campaign. I was mostly playing nice, using glitterdust/fly to help the party deal with invisible or flying enemies. Haste and Heroism to buff party numbers. Named Bullet to the Musket Master for easy crits. Telekinetic Charge to get the biped Synthesist into murder range. And I crafted both wonderous items and magical arms and armor to help the rest of the party perform better.

On the side, I had a slight experiment that ended with me completely breaking WBL, but I kept it within not too unreasonable levels.

Then the guy who played the evil Vampire Sorcerer who was also the King of our kingdom with a Pit Fiend as his bodyguard and had recently decided to pocket 1 million gp that was supposed to finance our kingdom for his own magical trinkets, decided to Soul Trap 75% of the party due to everyone distrusting him (with the trapped souls getting plane shifted into hell by "accident"). After that, I ended up breaking that world using a couple of crafted Candles of Invocation.

During most of that campaign, my wizard wasn't especially disruptive. The GM was much more frustrated for the most part by the Synthesist who usually didn't even touch his spells. But the GM reported that the party had significantly greater problems whenever I missed a session, due to the rest of the casters either embracing a martial role, or simply not being especially competent.

I also played an Empiricist Investigator in a mythic campaign with gimped wealth progression. Extracts + Skills + the ability to create a good plan wrecked most of the out of combat challenges we faced. And while built the character under time pressure and without any real knowledge of how to build a competent Investigator (or mythic character for that matter). I always performed acceptable, eventually got Monstrous Physique allowing me to boost that to better than most of our noncasters. That game also featured a Sorcerer who picked spells according to a water theme (I think). For the most part that Sorcerer had a long list of the weaker spells which he employed in a non optimal manner.

In my experience, the disparity is very much a thing. But a player's ability to make good choices is the more important factor.


Was playing in a Skulls and shackles campaign. In the third book (around level 7 IIRC), there was a contest. No magic was allowed in the contest, because magic would trivialize the contest, which consisted of things like climbing onto the mast.

That really made the disparity obvious to everyone.


LoneKnave wrote:

Also, I think we can just ignore the part where you say the fighter can handle a challenge if the cleric buffs him as if that illustrated your point, not mine.

PS.: I find it ironic when OP asks for actual in play disparity (or the feeling anyway) to counter theorycraft, and when examples are made people try to argue them away using theorycraft.

I didn't have a point - I was genuinely curious as to how it happened, since I've (not just in theory) taken on a lich as a fighter and done OK (after dying to the same opponent as a druid).

Fighters are pretty bad class, but they're even worse if they don't have standard Pathfinder gear like a magic bow.

And I don't think anyone's disputing that a martial without magical aid is going to struggle against magical opposition. But not everyone notices that disparity in mixed groups. Some people think, "This fighter is useless without a caster". Others think "all the caster does is buff and heal the fighter and disperse enemy gas clouds; the fighter is the one getting all the glory".


LuxuriantOak wrote:


As an example:
The party gets ambushed! (possible due to their own mistakes)
a nasty area effect hits the whole group, followed by charging ... I dunno ... Minotaurs!
the fireball does somwhere past 50 hp damage to those who fail their save (I pulled this number from thin air, don't overthink it) and if the charging Ox-men hit they have some sort of die + a larger static modifier - lets say it's ... 1d10+14
if the whole group failed their save and gets hit with 1 attack (I haven't specified how many players or enemies ther is, not planning to)
-we're looking at somwhere around 65-74 hp damage.
In many cases (not all) that is enough to knock out or even kill a wizard, or a inquisitor or whatever (because? because d6 or d8 hit dice)

-but the Rogue is fine, evasion says so.
-and the fighter, he can take some more of that (d10 hit die), and would like to show mister moo what he feels about this improper ambush.

If the party are level 9, say, and the cleric and fighter have equal Con, then the normal HP difference is 9 points. So if it's enough to knock out the cleric, the Fighter is probably down to 7HP or less. He'll go down on the next hit.

And a caster, while conscious, has a lot better chance to counter that sort of thing. A cleric with Quicken Channel can heal the entire party of most of the fireball damage. Or: Resist Energy: Fire in advance. Or using magic to detect the ambush. Teleporting out when things get that bad. Invisibility so the ambushers don't see you coming. Etc.


TarkXT wrote:
LuxuriantOak wrote:

As an example:

The party gets ambushed! (possible due to their own mistakes)
a nasty area effect hits the whole group, followed by charging ... I dunno ... Minotaurs!
the fireball does somwhere past 50 hp damage to those who fail their save (I pulled this number from thin air, don't overthink it) and if the charging Ox-men hit they have some sort of die + a larger static modifier - lets say it's ... 1d10+14
if the whole group failed their save and gets hit with 1 attack (I haven't specified how many players or enemies ther is, not planning to)
-we're looking at somwhere around 65-74 hp damage.
In many cases (not all) that is enough to knock out or even kill a wizard, or a inquisitor or whatever (because? because d6 or d8 hit dice)

-but the Rogue is fine, evasion says so.
-and the fighter, he can take some more of that (d10 hit die), and would like to show mister moo what he feels about this improper ambush.

-of course this is without getting into minute details like con modifiers and the results of hp rolls and so on.

get my point? sometimes it's not about being optimal or making the right choice. Mirror image only works after you've cast it, flying doesn't help against an arrow to the eye.
sometimes it's about surviving to the next round and forming a battle plan along the way.
If everybody in the group are made of paper then sometimes that second round won't come (or it will, but it will be one filled with coup de graces).

Except, well, the fighters die shortly afterwards in that scenario.

If you assume everyone ate that boat load of damage at the start (except the rogue as you said) and you drop two or three party members at the start after you jump them with a bunch of minotaurs?

That party is screwed.

That's why these scenarios boggle me when they're brought up. Killing the wizard doesn't empower the fighter it just makes the fight so much more difficult to win.

Here's a fun scenario what if we just blew up the fighter. What...

I mean, the fighter doesn't necessarily die the re. For example, say we are level 6 and facing 6 minotaurs plus some sort of aoe trap. One fighter might do a reach trip on any minotaur that tries to charge the caster using combat reflexes to take aoos flat footed, preventing the caster from going down in the first place. Some other spec of fighter might just take his 30 armor class and calmly start chopping them up while they miss repeatedly.


Matthew Downie wrote:
LoneKnave wrote:

Also, I think we can just ignore the part where you say the fighter can handle a challenge if the cleric buffs him as if that illustrated your point, not mine.

PS.: I find it ironic when OP asks for actual in play disparity (or the feeling anyway) to counter theorycraft, and when examples are made people try to argue them away using theorycraft.

I didn't have a point - I was genuinely curious as to how it happened, since I've (not just in theory) taken on a lich as a fighter and done OK (after dying to the same opponent as a druid).

Fighters are pretty bad class, but they're even worse if they don't have standard Pathfinder gear like a magic bow.

And I don't think anyone's disputing that a martial without magical aid is going to struggle against magical opposition. But not everyone notices that disparity in mixed groups. Some people think, "This fighter is useless without a caster". Others think "all the caster does is buff and heal the fighter and disperse enemy gas clouds; the fighter is the one getting all the glory".

Ah sorry for getting jumpy, these type of discussions bring the worst out of me.

For the record, I'm not sure how much a bow would have helped. He still can't see the lich, while the lich can see everyone just fine, even after just a cloudkill. And he still got cover. And he still haven't got the archery feats (which is, admittedly, an error on his part).


Matthew Downie wrote:

If the party are level 9, say, and the cleric and fighter have equal Con, then the normal HP difference is 9 points. So if it's enough to knock out the cleric, the Fighter is probably down to 7HP or less. He'll go down on the next hit.

And a caster, while conscious, has a lot better chance to counter that sort of thing. A cleric with Quicken Channel can heal the entire party of most of the fireball damage. Or: Resist Energy: Fire in advance. Or using magic to detect the ambush. Teleporting out when things get that bad. Invisibility so the ambushers don't see you coming. Etc.

To be fair to the fighter he is more likely to have toughness as he has many more feats than the cleric. Still being left on 16hp isn't likely to go any better for him.


People keep mentioning HD... But the difference in HP between, say... A Fighter and a Cleric is all but insignificant if they have the same Con modifier. Hell, even the difference between d10 and d6 is not all that much! It'll usually only give you a single extra hit worth of HP... That's nice and all... But insignificant most of the time (specially considering things like False Life and healing spells... You know... Spells. Cast by casters.


7thGate wrote:
I mean, the fighter doesn't necessarily die the re. For example, say we are level 6 and facing 6 minotaurs plus some sort of aoe trap. One fighter might do a reach trip on any minotaur that tries to charge the caster using combat reflexes to take aoos flat footed, preventing the caster from going down in the first place. Some other spec of fighter might just take his 30 armor class and calmly start chopping them up while they miss repeatedly.

I actually had something similar happen, and it worked up until the point the minotaur got a nat 20 crit with a nat 20 confirm (I think it wouldn't have even hit otherwise), reducing the already damaged (from traps and other stuff) fighter into the negatives instantly.

With 6 minotaurs, it's pretty likely you'll eat a crit every few rounds, no matter how calmly you are chopping things and how high your AC is. Of course, since the archeologist bard actually had evasion, and the cleric had ludicrous saves we were still alive and well and so we picked him up quite fast.


LuxuriantOak wrote:

As an example:

The party gets ambushed! (possible due to their own mistakes)
a nasty area effect hits the whole group, followed by charging ... I dunno ... Minotaurs!
the fireball does somwhere past 50 hp damage to those who fail their save (I pulled this number from thin air, don't overthink it) and if the...

OK, lets run with your example. While the rogue has evasion he still has to save. Who is more likely to have resist? The caster. Who is more likely to be able to act in the surprise round and avoid the ambush entirely? The diviner wizard/time/battle oracle. Who can drop emergency force sphere to entirely protect themselves? The sorcerer/wizard. Who can turn what might be a potential tpk into a survivable encounter? The person who can black tentacles, confusion, glitterdust, burst of radiance, greater command the mass of minotaurs.


LuxuriantOak wrote:

As an example:

The party gets ambushed! (possible due to their own mistakes)

Actually, I would like to withdraw my existing points about this scenario and replace them with a general 'if you want to make theorycrafting points, take it to one of the other C-M D threads'.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

DrDeth wrote:

Let us not attack the other side...

...

One reason I have seen is that those who dont think there's much of a disparity look upon PF/D&D as a TEAM game, and if the martial is super at dealing DPR- and the player playing that PC is happy doing that- then there's no disparity. The TEAM is strong, all the players are happy.

In other cases, the disparity doesnt happen much as the players are friends, and try to get along and "play happy".

...

Car we keep the discussion on a friendly level, please, less antagonistic posts? More helpful discussion. Please.

Um...

...okay.

So, anyway, there's a reason I was careful to point out the happiness and camraderie surrounding my cleric: he was played as a team member, and I treated my tablemates as friends. Like I said (did you read the whole post?) people were HAPPY to have me at the table with that character. Yet, the disparity was still there.


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber

oh come on, i said that if we kept talking about combat we're missing the point. Ssalarn's example a while back is a good example, the wizard just manages to easily get out of problems that the rogue can't.


I find a lot of adventures consist of:
Go to place.
Talk to some people.
Go to other place.
Kill a series of enemies.
Collect loot.

In these situations, out-of-combat options don't seem to matter that much unless the caster is going out of his way to short-circuit the story with planar shenanigans.


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber
Matthew Downie wrote:

I find a lot of adventures consist of:

Go to place.
Talk to some people.
Go to other place.
Kill a series of enemies.
Collect loot.

In these situations, out-of-combat options don't seem to matter that much unless the caster is going out of his way to short-circuit the story with planar shenanigans.

i mentioned a bridge collapse before that was solved via flying and a rope, else they were supposed to swim.


Matthew Downie wrote:

I find a lot of adventures consist of:

Go to place. Teleport,fly
Talk to some people. Charm Person/Glibness
Go to other place. Teleport, divinations, invisibility, summons for trapfinding/triggering, knock
Kill a series of enemies.
Collect loot. Identify

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Matthew Downie wrote:

I find a lot of adventures consist of:

Go to place.
Talk to some people.
Go to other place.
Kill a series of enemies.
Collect loot.

In these situations, out-of-combat options don't seem to matter that much unless the caster is going out of his way to short-circuit the story with planar shenanigans.

Well, let's take a look (using actual play experience, as the OP requested):

• Go to place.
My fighter could walk. My cleric could walk on air. (And my sorceress, whose story I didn't tell earlier because it was getting late, could fly and/or teleport.)

• Talk to some people.
My fighter could try a social skill, with CHAmod+skill ranks. My cleric could do the same, but also add his level on top of it through a domain power. Or, when we had someone at the table who wanted to do the talking, I could add my level to their social skills instead, while my fighter could just Aid Another for +2.
Oh, and if "talk to some people" included any degree of investigation or figuring things out, my cleric could literally just ask his goddess what's up.

• Go to other place.
See above about walking versus air walking, flying, teleporting, etc. Additionally, if "other place" is on the other side of any obstacles, my fighter could see if it's an obstacle that can be beaten into submission, but if it's not, then he has to do something horrible like make a Climb check for every 15ft he climbs and then start over (possibly with injury) when he fails even one of them. Meanwhile, the cleric just air walks past the obstacle, or stone shapes open the wall, or heals himself after the trap goes off, or whatever. My sorceress can just say "POOF! I'm at my destination!" (or fly there, if teleporting is too risky due to unfamiliarity).

• Kill a series of enemies.
Yay! Fighter can finally do something! Except my cleric is better at it. Oh, and if something's so tough that the fighter's method isn't gonna work (like the aforementioned fiendish Titan Centipede that takes the entire party under half health with a single trample, or the aforementioned CON-drain-when-you-hit ooze, or something spamming deeper darkness, or whatever else—and those are real examples, and I have more), then my fighter was left near-useless, while my cleric could just send the target to hell, or cast a spell/use a domain power that negates the unhelpful condition and go back to stabbing.

• Collect loot.
And even here my cleric has the advantage over my fighter, because my cleric's +2 cold iron longsword only cost him 20gp.

What part of that involved "going out of my way to short-circuit the story with planar shenanigans"?


Yes, but if it's possible to do these things without magic, using magic is just showing off / wasting spells per day / skipping adventure content. Most of the groups that I've played with would try doing these things the regular way first, and only resort to teleporting or magically charming people if forced to. And in most of the adventures I've played in, mundane abilities work fine for almost every out-of-combat situation (with exceptions such as healing).


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber
Matthew Downie wrote:
Yes, but if it's possible to do these things without magic, using magic is just showing off / wasting spells per day / skipping adventure content. Most of the groups that I've played with would try doing these things the regular way first, and only resort to teleporting or magically charming people if forced to. And in most of the adventures I've played in, mundane abilities work fine for almost every out-of-combat situation (with exceptions such as healing).

more like magic does them better or faster... not to mention wizards have skill ranks comparable to rogues...


I consider mundane solutions to be intrinsically 'better' in most cases. Getting up a wall with a grappling hook is a cooler visual image than using magic to do it. Convincing someone to help you by demonstrating your good intentions is less creepy than magically brainwashing them. Riding or sneaking across Mordor is more dramatic than teleporting across Mordor.

Faster? No. Safer? No. Just 'better'.


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber
Matthew Downie wrote:

I consider mundane solutions to be intrinsically 'better' in most cases. Getting up a wall with a grappling hook is a cooler visual image than using magic to do it. Convincing someone to help you by demonstrating your good intentions is less creepy than magically brainwashing them. Riding or sneaking across Mordor is more dramatic than teleporting across Mordor.

Faster? No. Safer? No. Just 'better'.

i would probably argue your point, but really it's just an opinion so i'm going to say that "better" probably isn't the best word.

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