Caster / Caster Disparity


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


To begin with - this is not a caster/martial disparity thread. It isn't. Kobold Cleaver doesn't need to index it. This is in response to part of what I've seen laid out in caster/martial disparity threads and in party balance threads.

When the question of power disparity or balance comes up, a lot of people jump straight to the Wizard. I'm aware of how earth-shakingly powerful high-level wizards are - designing a team of 20th-level NPCs for a team of 'heroes of old' I had to conclude that while they were all armies of one and all powerful enough to win a conventional battle by taking part in it, the sheer range of tricks at the wizard's disposal meant that he could compete as a player, rather than a gamepiece, on the cosmic scale.

So, in all the discussion of balance and imbalance between casters and martials, when people start talking about wizards, are they bouncing over the issue of Caster/Caster Disparity?

1)Doesn't the wizard's ease of access to the wizard/sorcerer spell list(and the arcanist's, to a different and arguably greater extent), or their bonus metamagic/item creation feats, put other perfectly worthwhile casters in the shade?

2)There's idea that throwing buff spells on martials can keep them in the hunt, and help them deal with enemies they would otherwise be unable to damage effectively (ones with regeneration, flight or some other fast movement, potent defensive spells, so forth) - but there doesn't seem to be quite as much about putting buffs on casters, except protective spells or spells designed to allow a caster to get into the fight. Is there an aspect of teamwork missing between casters, of directly supporting another character's action, that can add to this caster/caster disparity.

Disclaimer: This isn't talking about the Summoner. The Summoner is a secondary caster that can cast an awesome ninth-level spell (Dominate Monster) at Level 16, before primary casters which are basically defined by their exclusive access to ninth-level spells can even get their hands on it. For this and other reasons, the Summoner is an ill-designed class, and any disparity casters (or martials) experience is a symptom of the Summoner's design.

TL;DR: Do people who like playing divine casters, spontaneous casters, and secondary casters, sometimes feel that their access to spells and feats or just the teamwork style between casters leaves them feeling unenjoyably redundant next to wizards or arcanists?

Edit: Where I said wizard/oracle, I meant wizard/sorcerer. Typo.


Idle Champion wrote:


1)Doesn't the wizard's ease of access to the wizard/oracle spell list(and the arcanist's, to a different and arguably greater extent)

Wha...?

Idle Champion wrote:
2)There's idea that throwing buff spells on martials can keep them in the hunt, and help them deal with enemies they would otherwise be unable to damage effectively (ones with regeneration, flight or some other fast movement, potent defensive spells, so forth) - but there doesn't seem to be quite as much about putting buffs on casters, except protective spells or spells designed to allow a caster to get into the fight. Is there an aspect of teamwork missing between casters, of directly supporting another character's action, that can add to this caster/caster disparity.

Other casters can provide their own buffs, usually, and benefit less from the buffs that can be cast on martials, much of the time, and most of those buffs (Good hope, Haste, etc.) are multi-target anyway. Protective spells (Mirror Image, Shield, False Life, and so on) are all Personal. Casters couldn't share those even if they wanted to.

You seem to be asking a question and then providing talking points that makes no sense.

Especially that first one.

Seriously what even is that supposed to mean?


Rynjin wrote:
Other casters can provide their own buffs, usually, and benefit less from the buffs that can be cast on martials, much of the time, and most of those buffs (Good hope, Haste, etc.) are multi-target anyway. Protective spells (Mirror Image, Shield, False Life, and so on) are all Personal.

Other casters have access to different spell lists, so they can provide their own buffs, but there are buffs they might get from another caster. The fact that casters benefit less from buffs than martials or combat casters who are taking a moment to go martial is kind of my point - that casters get a little left out of the 'buffing for effectiveness' teamwork game, focusing on 'buffing for expanded role' - when a caster buffs up to fight directly - or 'buffing for movement and safety'. And protective spells aren't all personal.

Idle Champion wrote:
Doesn't the wizard's ease of access to the wizard/sorcerer spell list... put other perfectly worthwhile casters in the shade?

With some commas and parentheses out of the way, this is my first question, or at least part of it.

The wizard/sorcerer (not wizard/oracle, sorry, that was a typo) spell list is basically the best spell list. Sorcerers have limited access to this list, because of the 'spells known' setup that sorcerers have. Wizards and arcanists do not - an arcanist knows the whole list, a wizard can learn the whole list with the aid of scrolls and spellbooks. Minimally restricted access to the best spell list basically means that if you're looking for the right spell for most situations, a wizard can provide it.

Roundabout way of saying it, but does the Wizard's massive bag of tricks mean they can always do the Thing the Party Needs, while other casters have to settle for only mostly being able to do the Thing the Party Needs.


1) Yes. Prepared full casters are flat out better than spontaneous casters. Delayed spell access sucks. Having just one spell known also sucks. Oracles have free cure or inflict spells and get their bonus spells earlier, but are on a list that's built around the assumption that a cleric knows all spells. The comparison between eg. normal and eldritch scion magus is closer because the spells come at the same schedule and the bard spells known table doesn't have 1s in it, but for full casters the "WotC resents having to put sorcerers in their game" tax is too steep.

Sorcerers are still worthwhile casters and arcanists may be slightly ahead of wizards except on odd levels between 2 and 18 where they're substantially behind. I'm very much not a fan of oracles, mainly because of the way the cleric list is constructed: Oracles may be powerful, but it's almost impossible for an oracle to do a cleric's job.

2) There are no offensive caster buffs to speak of. If they lack items they can get some benefit from the Animal's Stat line, but lacking stat items on a caster is unusual. And that's it. There are no spells that directly increase your CL or save DCs or anything. There's one bard spell that applies free metamagic, but the only good one is extend and it's only good for stretching hour/level spells into all day spells. You can slap heroism or haste on the cleric to good effect, but only when she's acting like a martial.


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A huge amount of the issue boils down to GMing...

I've played in some really good mid/high games and the martials have been beasts.... this is where PF trumps over 3.5. In 3.5 with its range of SOD's for Clerics/Wizards.... if they got initiative you
were toast. That doesnt happen anywhere near as much in PF.

If typical encounters have combatants lined up at either end like a football match then yes something like a wizard is going to have a field day.... but with proper GMing they can very easily get chopped into pieces

I remember an encounter where there was a BBEG and bodyguards providing the focus of attention for the group but little did we know there were 2 barbarians with invisibility on hidden away....

Round 2 of the combat, our 16th level Wizard explodes into gloop as he gets hit for almost 300 hp in 1 round by a barbarian surprise attacking...


...ahh, consensus. Always a good indicator of a well-trodden subject. I was somewhat more curious about tabletop impressions of it as a problem or not rather than design - I get the wizard/arcanist status as 'most powerful/most powers by design' - just wondering if people, when they see the Martial vs. Caster disparity phrased as the Martial vs. Wizard disparity, don't think: "Hey, I can recall being made tactically redundant by the Wizard playing my perfectly respectable caster."

And I just find it weird that there really aren't 'caster buffs' - there's feats, and items, and so forth, but you can't be reasonably expected to have all of them. But, as you say, no CL boost or vs. SR boost or save DC boost - no caster counterpart to True Strike or Greater Magic Weapon. When an enemy shows up with great saves and SR, rather than having one caster throw Righteous Clarity or something on another to try and beat the defences, Summoned Monsters get called up to mob the guy. Not a big issue - just a gripe that casters don't have direct aid style teamwork, when things like direct aid, pooled resources, multi-caster ritual spells all suit my idea of what a caster is like in fantasy literature.


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There is a spell that helps against SR.

Anyway, part of the reason that caster vs caster disparity isn't that much of a concern is that most casters have enough to do to be relevant most of the time.

Lets compare a Bard and a Wizard. The wizard can do a ridiculous amount of things. So many I won't even bother listing them. The bard can...
* Buff(heroism, haste, bardsong, good hope)
* Toss out Enchantment SoLs (Confusion, Hideous Laughter, Suggestion)
* Provide utility effects (see invisibility, dispel, invisibility, dimension door)
* Drop limited BFC and AoE debuffs (glitterdust, grease, Slow)

A single level 7(non-human and without pages of spell knowledge) bard can have the following for part of their spell loadout
SL1: Grease, Hideous Laughter, Charm person
SL2:Suggestion, Invisibility, Mirror Image, Glitterdust
SL3: Slow, Haste

That will mean the bard has a lot of different effects that could come in handy for a lot of different situations (both in and out of combat).

On top of that, bards can be competent martial combatants. They actually make pretty decent archers. So add "Just Hit It" to the above list of things they can do.

Chances are that unless the wizard manages to completely destroy the encounter every single time, the bard will have something to do since the wizard can't do everything all at once. Thus they will usually contribute to the encounter, even if the wizard is the MVP. This is usually enough to keep the bard player satisfied despite being second fiddle to the wizard(everything there but bardsong and hitting things the wizard can do too, and probably do better as well). They might know that they don't contribute as much as the wizard most of the time, but they are still useful practically all the time, and the wizard won't mind another caster around to stick haste on their summons for them or drop a Confusion on a Dazing Fireball'd mob. They play support to the wizard, but they never end up being a burden on the wizard. They can take care of themselves, and they augment the wizard's already considerable power without demanding much back in return.

Contrast this to things like a fighter, where they can only do the hitting things part reliably. If running up to it and smacking it isn't a good tactical option, then a melee fighter is in real trouble and ends up being dead weight (if not an outright liability). The wizard will frequently need to spend actions just to enable the fighter to do their job properly. Flying ranged combatants are a good example that the fighter will have trouble with before they buy access to reliable flight. SoLs and SoSs are a major concern for the fighter as well. Bards OTOH can buff up their saves (and those of the wizard), have better saves than the fighter in the first place, and can cast or UMD spells to mitigate the effects of the hostile spells. They can also do things other than smack things over the head - sure, a melee bard can't hit something in the air, but they can Confusion or Hideous Laughter it instead.


So, first off, the central premise is probably wrong. We don't even have a solid definition of "caster", whatever follows is going to be similarly poorly defined. A paladin, for instance, should probably be counted as a martial. But the class still has spells.

That being said, the questions are easy.

1a. The cleric has access to every spell on their list (with the right alignment) whenever they reprepare spells. The wizard list is arguably better but the cleric has much better access. The druid is like the cleric, only with no restrictions.

1b. Yes, the wizard, cleric, and druid are high above the less than ninth level casters. The other ninth level casters are either based on the wizard (and can get unlimited spells), based on the cleric (and therefore have all their spells), or are spontaneous. The poor, red-headed stepchild of the system. But that's not a problem with the wizard. That's a problem with all prepared casters, and only by virtue of being "not spontaneous casters". Really don't know why they hate spontaneous casters so much.

1c. In conclusion, yes, the wizard's easy access to spells does make it more powerful than spontaneous casters. Ditto the cleric, druid, witch, basically anyone who's not a spontaneous caster. Really the question here is why spontaneous casters get screwed, and you'd need to ask the devs that.

2a. This one is because if a class can reasonably be built to do something, they already included the spells you might want on the list. In fact, paizo has been adding to that. There's now a cleric equivalent of haste and a wizard equivalent of healing. Casters don't need to buff other casters. They can already have the spells they might want.

2b. Conversely, people talk all the time about building a debuffer to help the party, which includes the casters. Witches are great at wrecking opponents so the SoD or SoL lands. Lots of penalties and rerolls.

As for "caster buffs", most of them are personal. And if you're not finding them you're not looking hard enough. Here's your bonus to penetrate SR. There's also this to get a reroll. Then there's Ill Omen to ruin good saves, along with all of the other things that reduce saves. Shaken, sickened, evil eye, ability damage, there's lots of things out that. That you can't find them doesn't mean they don't exist.


'Sure casting' is a good find, and I admit I didn't know that one - I don't have that source for HLab, which is where I do most of my building. 'Borrow Fortune' can let you get a crucial spell through SR.
Things like Ill Omen, Mind Fog are a different kettle of fish. They exist, and I could find them, and they do allow for 'combined, focused effort' of multiple casters piling debuffs onto one target to let a key spell through, which is cool.

But its not the same as direct aid. The only caster buffs described are short-lived personal effects. There's a fair case that caster buffs are unnecessary, and I'm not trying to argue that they are, or even that they should be - its just that I like direct aid as a teamwork option and particularly like co-operative casting as a theme, and find it curious that such a party-oriented game doesn't include these even as suboptimal options.

Bob Bob Bob wrote:
That being said, the questions are easy.

They are meant to be - I'm not blinking in the dawn of discovering a wizard's Tier 1 status or trying to contest it, so the questions are straightforward. I'm asking if people who have set up their caster characters to be casters, rather than magically-aided combat hybrids, experience being overshadowed in their chosen specialty. Not the inescapable-in-theory gap, but if people find what I probably should have labeled the wizard/caster discrepancy an in-game frustration and how they work with it.

Bob Bob Bob wrote:
So, first off, the central premise is probably wrong. We don't even have a solid definition of "caster",

The wizard and the arcanist were directly mentioned, and I went on to mention divine casters, spontaneous casters, and secondary casters, and began by contrasting casters with martials. Not the most airtight definition of caster, but the bones of one are there and the reason I neglected to mention partial casting martials like the Paladin was because I didn't include them as casters.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Idle Champion wrote:


With some commas and parentheses out of the way, this is my first question, or at least part of it.
The wizard/sorcerer (not wizard/oracle, sorry, that was a typo) spell list is basically the best spell list. Sorcerers have limited access to this list, because of the 'spells known' setup that sorcerers have. Wizards and arcanists do not - an arcanist knows the whole list, a wizard can learn the whole list with the aid of scrolls and spellbooks.

I don't know where you're getting that from. Arcanists are just as spellbook dependent as wizards and magi. Difference being they only have to prepare ONE copy of any spell they need for the day, because once prepared, they act as sorcerers for the purpose of casting.


Idle Champion wrote:
Bob Bob Bob wrote:
So, first off, the central premise is probably wrong. We don't even have a solid definition of "caster",
The wizard and the arcanist were directly mentioned, and I went on to mention divine casters, spontaneous casters, and secondary casters, and began by contrasting casters with martials. Not the most airtight definition of caster, but the bones of one are there and the reason I neglected to mention partial casting martials like the Paladin was because I didn't include them as casters.

Examples do not a definition make, unless they're exhaustive. :P

That being said, I already gave an example of why this isn't well defined. A paladin is a spellcaster (technically) who's primarily a martial. Probably easy to classify as just a martial. What about the bard? Do the archetypes matter? Because a lot of them make the bard more "fighty" than "casty". And then we hit the magus, whose whole schtick is fighting and casting. Does it count under martial or caster? So you do need to decide if you're talking about imbalance within the 9th level casters, between the 9th level and 6th levels, among all casters, some combination of the previous, whatever you actually want to talk about.


Overall, sorcerer is weaker to wizard, but it is still an earth-shattering class that can function at the highest levels without the slightest need for gear.

Clerics are basically not played in my group. As far as I can tell they are fine.

Druids are rofl good. They don't snap encounters like wizards but I consider that a good thing. Druid performance is more solid across GMs. The only downside to it is that you are basically playing spreadsheat simulator.

Oracles are arguably better than clerics.

Some 6th level casters can tangle, but for the most part they merely get to be the "martial-that-works" by being a buff-mancer.

All casters suffer from the player actually needing to know what they are doing to get best performance. The skill floor is a tad lower than martials, but the skill ceiling dwarfs the mightiest martial.


LazarX wrote:
don't know where you're getting that from. Arcanists are just as spellbook dependent as wizards and magi.

Thanks for clarifying - when the Arcanist was first explained to me (maybe a bad explanation, maybe a playtest change, don't know) it was explained as knowing the entire wizard/sorcerer list, preparing individual spells from that list like a wizard, and casting spells as it liked from its prepared spells as though they were its sorcerer spells known. That change makes it much more reasonable. Still pretty powerful.

Bob Bob Bob wrote:
Examples do not a definition make, unless they're exhaustive.

Okay - where casters include primary casters - sorcerers, oracles, clerics, druids, witches - and any secondary, 6 spell level casters who are building their characters to rely primarily on their spells, their SLAs, and their Supernatural abilities that have spell-like effects, but not partial casting martials with delayed access to caster levels and only 4 spell levels, and not combat-focused builds based on secondary casters (Such as a Warpriest, or an Arcane Duelist Bard)... do people find as they play such a caster that the wizard's range of spells and feats enables the wizard to:

Outperform other casters in their specialty (even when that specialty is outside the wizard's own nominal specialty), so thoroughly resolve some encounters in early rounds that other casters find themselves not needed, address threats that other casters cannot, and, in the case of oracles and sorcerers, do wizards outperform them even on even numbered levels between 2 and 18, when their spell level access has caught up?

The direct aid teamwork thing is really a side issue.

Basically, people talk about the hypothetical well-played wizard as basically an almighty entity. I've seen people talk about wizards in the 17-20 range as being essentially literal gods, and it isn't because of a convenient acronym that the 'battlefield control wizard' is called the 'god wizard.'

With the wizard expressed like this, I'm curious about people's in-play experience of being a caster alongside a wizard.


Silver Surfer wrote:

A huge amount of the issue boils down to GMing...

I've played in some really good mid/high games and the martials have been beasts.... this is where PF trumps over 3.5. In 3.5 with its range of SOD's for Clerics/Wizards.... if they got initiative you
were toast. That doesnt happen anywhere near as much in PF.

If typical encounters have combatants lined up at either end like a football match then yes something like a wizard is going to have a field day.... but with proper GMing they can very easily get chopped into pieces

I remember an encounter where there was a BBEG and bodyguards providing the focus of attention for the group but little did we know there were 2 barbarians with invisibility on hidden away....

Round 2 of the combat, our 16th level Wizard explodes into gloop as he gets hit for almost 300 hp in 1 round by a barbarian surprise attacking...

You didn't read the first post. Or the tl;dr. You didn't even read the title of the thread. What's wrong with you?

------------------------------------------

On-topic, I think the Cleric/Oracle and Wiz/Sorc spell list are different (and rarely mixed) enough that they have a niche with proper spell prep/spells known. Druids have other class features and some unique spells, so they're not completely outdone by Clerics. As usual, this doesn't quite apply at max level with the right build, but that's high level casters vs high level casters. They can do whatever they want at a certain point.

In the end, full casters are balanced enough against one another that any changes would be out of convenience or personal preference. I would like Sorcerers to apply metamagic without longer cast-times and get spells at the same level as Wizards, but that's not a game-breakingly massive gap. Despite those disadvantages, they're still incredibly powerful.


I've played a wizard alongside a cleric. He built for undead minion-mancy and I did not. If I had chose to, I still could not have done anything close to what he did. Way more spells on the cleric list built up for it.

I've see a druid played alongside a sorcerer. While there was some pointless differences (mostly that the druid could buff themself) the big one came when it came time to destroy things en masse. That's when Summon Hurricane really showed the differences between the two. There's apparently a few ways for divine casters to grab it but nothing for arcane. And Control Weather is slightly separate and doesn't allow the same kind of localization that Control Winds does.

So no, the wizard doesn't particularly have any advantage over anything but the spontaneous casters (and only because those are treated so poorly by the system). Each caster generally has a niche that other casters have to sacrifice to even get into and all of the casters generally have a way to end combat before it properly starts. It's not a wizard thing. It's a 9th level caster thing.


This thread is a worse spinoff than Joey. Stay tuned for the Martial/Martial Disparity thread and the Gary Marshall Disparity.


You mean the Gary disparity.

Gary Oak >>>>> this Gary Marshall person.


kyrt-ryder wrote:

You mean the Gary disparity.

Gary Oak >>>>> this Gary Marshall person.

Smell ya later!

Also: Working as intended.


kyrt-ryder wrote:

You mean the Gary disparity.

Gary Oak >>>>> this Gary Marshall person.

This statement is pointless. of course Gary Oak is better. He's Gary Motherf$#$ing Oak.

That's his legal middle name.


No matter how good you are or how fast you train... he will always be there ahead you


Create Mr. Pitt wrote:
This thread is a worse spinoff than Joey

Why can't Marshalls get nice things?

One of yours, I believe.

Create Mr. Pitt wrote:
Stay tuned for the Martial/Martial Disparity thread

Like this one or this one?

I cannot comment on Gary Marshall disparity, being unfamiliar with the Gary in question.


See that was a good spin off, it didn't take itself too seriously.

It's a shame not enough people know Gary Marshall. He's quite old. He directed a bunch of terrible things but has also been a funny actor/voice on several things including Murphy Brown, BoJack Horseman, and played the guy who ran the zoo for the octuplets on The Simpsons, for example.

I'd love it we just spent less time complaining about how something are better than others. That's the nature of life in games. Maybe we should focus more on interesting synergies and come up with genuine improvements on the...

Hah, I'm kidding Daring Champion Cavalier makes a Swashbuckler look like Gumby. Argue.


I have repeatedly complained about martial/martial disparity. Well, barbarian/"other suckers" disparity, but it's all the same. I would love feats for a fighter to allow flying, true seeing, dispel magic, pounce, true strike (all sort of available to barbarians). Actually, as time goes on a few of these do appear. There's now feat chains to get an animal companion and pounce while mounted. Too bad that almost none of the feats are combat feats, the ones a fighter actually gets from class features. I would take a paladin, ranger, or barbarian over a fighter or rogue any day of the week and twice on sunday.

As for the Daring Champion Cavalier, didn't they take away a bunch of features from it with the errata? I haven't read it too closely but I seem to recall them removing parry from pretty much everyone but the swashbuckler.


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Having played a high level sorcerer beside a high level wizard I didn't feel like I was any way inferior. Obviously a wizard's total capabilities are more, but a sorcerer can be better than a Wizard at whatever he chooses for his expertise. So what happens is the sorcerer defines his niche, wizard gets what's left. Psychologically, that's huge. The wizard's slice of pizza may be bigger, but the sorcerer is choosing one with all the toppings he likes. It's not a bad deal at all.

Being a level 3 sorcerer sucks though.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

One can answer this with mechanical theorycraft, yet I will relate my practical experience with it.

My practical experience tends to be 10th level or lower. I sometimes have games that go 20th or even epic/mythic levels, yet for every game session I've had above 10th level, I have played or run dozens below it.

The most important thing is creativity from the player. A player that can't utilize a spellcaster well is like watching someone play a video game with a broken controller - they just can't quite pull awesome out of their hat. Either they use up all their spells too early, or prepare spells unwisely, or try using simple brute force spells (like magic missile) rather than think of the many options the mage also has.

People new to casters in general tend to do better with four level casters - as they can still default back into a martial mode, or fare better with spontaneous casters as they don't have to struggle with an intimidating amount of spell choices each day. Four level casters don't even have to worry about spells until fourth level. This gives the player plenty of time to prepare for the day they can cast spells at last.

Six level casters stay relevant at any level of the game. They usually are 3/4 BAB, so they can fall back into a martial role in a pinch. They have enough spells at every experience level to contribute something to the group, yet never quite reaches the level of narrative control that full casters have. Summoners are a bit of an exception as they have slightly less narrative control than a sorcerer/wizard.

Prepared full casters and spontaneous full casters are apples and oranges, as I have said in many other threads. Both are different, both are awesome, and most tend to favor one or the other as a matter of personal taste. At low levels, they run out of spells quickly and the arcane casters are burdened with a 1/2 BAB. This means that a low level full caster must learn to ration spells out carefully, be prepared to burn through expendable resources more often (scrolls, wand charges, potions), or just hope for really lucky rolls while using a crossbow. In short, at level 1-2 a full caster is likely overshadowed by the other casters as the less than ful caster mages tend to have more options to stay relevant (skills, combat abilities, etc.). At high levels, full casters have a great deal more narrative control, yet they don't overshadow as much since a six level caster still has very useful abilities even in a high level combat, while the four level casters start to lose relevancy at around level 15 or so - joining the ranks of their non-casting classes when it comes to new narrative altering contributions.

The big thing to take away from this, it all depends on the player behind the caster. A player could have a homebrewed super mage with access to all divine and arcane spells. Without a great deal of creativity and understanding of the magic system, that caster just won't cut it. A player with a deep understanding of the magic system, lots of time, and plenty of creativity could use a four level caster in ways that could keep relevant from the time they first get to cast spells all the way to 20th level. We are talking the McGuyvers of the magic system. Granted, that's hard mode for most casters, it can still be done.


KestrelZ wrote:
One can answer this with mechanical theorycraft, yet I will relate my practical experience with it.

Thanks. In-game experiences, rather than a by-design argument, is much more what I was after.


I think one key factor is system mastery. Of course, that's true with any charop discussion and relevant to the martial/caster disparity as well, but I think it's more true for caster/caster discussion because A) there are more moving parts in a caster since they have to pick spells, and B) there is a greater range of optimization. Casters seem to have a lower optimization floor and a higher ceiling.

This is also, in my experience, true for prepared/spont disparity, since a prepared caster is all about her ability to have The Right Spell at The Right Time. Spontaneous casters are expected to have generally useful spells, but prepared casters, if well played, will have situationally useful spells.

In my experience, different spell lists have less effects, simply because you pick a character around the kind of spells you want to cast -- if I want to play Cynthia Blastercaster, I'm probably not going to pick a witch, but I might take an evoker wizard.

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