Martial / Caster disparity: What are you going to do about it?


Homebrew and House Rules

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Athaleon wrote:
Limiting the game to CRB only, and limiting magic item access, hurts martials more than it hurts casters.

Depends on the magic items you limit. If you limit the magic items that casters use to steal martial's fun, that's a different story than just a blanket limit.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

The idea of social 'pods' struck a chord.

It would be interesting if fighter/military types could wield influence over people without magic, primarily military, craftsmen and laborers. Rogues and the like would wield influence among those with money and skills - nobles and master craftsmen. Casters would wield influence among intelligentsia and nobles, particularly other spellcasters, but would face some penalties from non-casters who don't have access to magic and thus wouldn't empathisize with them.

Bards/Minstrels would be unique in that they could seamlessly travel between the various strata of society.

It would pretty much mirror divisions in how such people are treated today. Only the most high ranking of military officers tend to be acknowledged by the wealthy and powerful. Likewise, intelligentsia have little use for military accomplishments and those without power, but do tend to be starved and desirous of funding. The poor and military classes tend to see violence and armed service as a road to a better lifestyle, an attitude fostered by the rich who pay them and control them (and so consider them lesser folk on the social scale regardless of skill level.)

Be interesting to try and work it all out.

==Aelryinth


LazarX wrote:
Athaleon wrote:
Limiting the game to CRB only, and limiting magic item access, hurts martials more than it hurts casters.
Depends on the magic items you limit. If you limit the magic items that casters use to steal martial's fun, that's a different story than just a blanket limit.

And those magic items are in the Core Rulebook.

Which was Athaleon's point.


Auxmaulous wrote:
Scaling back spell function and power is very unpopular around here when presented as a fix, unfortunately that is probably the biggest change (and the mutable DC system) that need to be changed. Once you touch that or try to - out come the torches.

There's a reason for this and it's not just caster privilege. If you take away the caster's abilities you have to give them to someone else because the default game assumes their presence. Most of them make no sense on martials and that's okay. Arcane casters aren't allowed to be healers (apart from the witch who should have been divine since she draws her power from a patron) and that's okay too.

Lack of access to the DC system on martials is a problem, but it's a solvable problem without letting martials punch people so hard their curse breaks or cut through reality with a letter opener. Moving combat maneuvers to the saving throw system would be an easy start.

But to resolve the narrative power issue rather than just the mechanical balance issue I've come to think the only options are to rip up the game assumptions and all 3.5 or PF settings that rely on them or to just ban martials.

Just banning martials is looking awfully tempting since actually redressing the narrative imbalance means not using Pathfinder at all anymore since you can't use the rules, can't use the classes, can't use the APs, and can't even really use the setting splats. There's a reason Kirth has decided not to promote his "houserules" actively here anymore: They have less in common with Pathfinder than Pathfinder has in common with D&D.


Aelryinth wrote:

The idea of social 'pods' struck a chord.

It would be interesting if fighter/military types could wield influence over people without magic, primarily military, craftsmen and laborers. Rogues and the like would wield influence among those with money and skills - nobles and master craftsmen. Casters would wield influence among intelligentsia and nobles, particularly other spellcasters, but would face some penalties from non-casters who don't have access to magic and thus wouldn't empathisize with them.

Bards/Minstrels would be unique in that they could seamlessly travel between the various strata of society.

It would pretty much mirror divisions in how such people are treated today. Only the most high ranking of military officers tend to be acknowledged by the wealthy and powerful. Likewise, intelligentsia have little use for military accomplishments and those without power, but do tend to be starved and desirous of funding. The poor and military classes tend to see violence and armed service as a road to a better lifestyle, an attitude fostered by the rich who pay them and control them (and so consider them lesser folk on the social scale regardless of skill level.)

Be interesting to try and work it all out.

==Aelryinth

I did this by giving different classes various bonuses with the downtime system. Fighters can get labour points easier. Bards can get influence points easier. Rogues can get goods points easier. Wizards can get magic points easier. Etc. Though there are things like barbarians generating labour points on their own, counting as multiple people with his immense strength and will or Alchemists can get magic points easier, but not as well as wizards, and they can convert 1 magic into 1 goods (rather than 3 magic into 1 goods), etc.


^Take that a step further and fix/replace Master Craftsman with something that non-casters can use for making magic items in more than the most niche situations. Also require casters to have the appropriate mundane Craft or Profession skills to make magic items. This way, smart martials can actually craft their own stuff if necessary (still a big investment but at least not totally impractical).


UnArcaneElection wrote:

^Take that a step further and fix/replace Master Craftsman with something that non-casters can use for making magic items in more than the most niche situations. Also require casters to have the appropriate mundane Craft or Profession skills to make magic items. This way, smart martials can actually craft their own stuff if necessary (still a big investment but at least not totally impractical).

I always give mastercraftsmen's benefits to my players for free if they meet the prerequisites and expanding it if appropriate. One of my players is a paladin//monk who grows magical crops and raises magical farm animals, two other players have a ranks in Profession (barkeep) so I'm now they can make magic alcohol.


A couple of things floating around in my head cannon that help reduce the martial/caster disparity (a good chunk of these have already been stated, but whatever):

1: Tweaks to full attacks and action economy in general. You can move up to your land speed while performing a full attack and full attacks start off at full BAB for each attack but for every 5 ft of movement after your first 5ft of movement after you first attack you receive a -5 cumulative to hit, if that penalty meets or exceeds your BAB you lose all remaining attacks in the full attack. If you require more than 10 ft to get to your first enemy with a melee attack you can only make a standard action attack (unless you have pounce) but get Vital Strike/Improved/Greater for free on the attack. Example 1, Boris the 20th level fighter is fighting a line of goblins, spaced 5 ft apart from each other. He hits the first one at +20, moves 5 ft, hits the second one at +20, moves 5ft, hits the third at +15, moves 5 ft, hits the fourth at +10. Example 2, Boris is fighting two goblins 25ft apart. He hits the first for +20/+20 and then moves 25ft to hit the second one. He has a -20 to hit from his movement so he does not get his last two attacks. He may still take any number of attacks of opportunity that he can throughout the round and his movement penalty to hit does not apply to these attacks of opportunity. Characters may expend an attack of opportunity to take an immediate action. This helps out the Swashbuckler and other immediate/swift action starved classes. Most spells are at least a full round action to cast and many of the problem spells are changed to ritual length (no more limited wish -> geas to overcome casting time issues either since wishes are rituals as well).

2: Give sub-par weapons intrinsic properties that help keep them relevant for longer. Ranged weapons that require move action reloads such as crossbows and firearms get Vital Strike/Improved/Greater for free. Most melee weapons have trip/grapple/distracting/whatever else I want to throw on them to allow them to be more versatile without player investment. In addition, the character is treated as having whatever Improved/Greater combat maneuver feat(s) make sense with the weapon qualities while wielding it if they're proficient.

3: Skill buffs. The simplest one being that you gain a climb and swim speed equal to the number of ranks you have in it and that you can still roll to speed up your movement, with 1-4 ranks in climb giving you half the result in movement, 5-9 ranks full result, 10-14 1.5x, 15-19 2x and 20 ranks 3x per move action. For swimming it's 1x, 1.5x, 2x, 3x, 4x. Yes that means that the player can likely swim/climb faster than they can run at high levels. No I do not have a problem with that. Jump checks can exceed movement capabilities and the DC is only 3 per vertical foot at 5-9 ranks, 2 per vertical foot at 10-14 ranks and only 1 per vertical foot at 15+ ranks. If you invest ranks in skills and not just magical +s, you will have an easier time doing pretty much anything even with the same total modifier. Pretty much every skill gets notable unlocks that put the unchained unlocks to shame. Of course martials get more skills so that they can better take utilize this power up.

4: Accept that it is impossible for a completely mundane character to logically survive until high level in a high fantasy setting and therefore set the Barbarian as the baseline for what a badass martial should look like. Adjust all non-casting classes until they at least reach parity with the Barbarian in combat utility/defenses. Barbarians are the only non-caster that I think are currently sufficient to see high level play without seriously becoming dead weight along the way. Do they stay good? Maybe, maybe not. Do they stay good enough? Definitely. They can perform their role at all levels admirably, regardless of what gear they're wearing since rage powers provide excellent combat utility. The same cannot be said of the Fighter without heavy reliance on magic items.

5: Allow mundane crafting to add +s to weapons and armor. Why that isn't already a thing I have no idea.

6: Not a house rule but, design encounters (both combat and social) in a way that should allow the spotlight to rotate easily from one character to the next without feeling like you're tearing it away from whoever it happens to be under just to be inclusive.

7: In a similar vein to 6, encourage cooperative play. Reward people for working together to find solutions or using tandem tactics to overcome threats. If someone's playing as a summoner, show your appreciation when they hand out flying mounts to the whole party for an aerial combat and show your displeasure when they take half an hour positioning all of their summons in a way that cuts off the fighter's charging lanes. People generally respond well positive feedback, so they're more likely to play cooperatively if they think they'll get a metaphorical cookie for playing nice.

-----

Personally I don't see the appeal of letting non-casters perform ritual spells if they actually have decent class abilities. That being said, a whole lot more spells would have ritual length casting times normally for any home game I GM anyway, so maybe therein lies my lack of enthusiasm on the idea of "magic for everyone, but less of a pain in the ass for wizards."

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

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IF you make Craft DC requirements for magic items, crafting skills become a LOT more valuable.

I.e. making this magic item requires a masterwork check of 20+ Spellcraft DC.

And then make it so non-feat, non-rank, non-stat bonuses only give you time accelerants, not Masterwork quality boosts. I.e. competence, insight, luck, circumstance, aid another bonuses help you work faster, not BETTER.

Then, you can maybe start awarding skill bonuses by class that help with those checks to a level that other classes are naturally inferior to them. A fighter that adds his weapon training to Making Weapons check is naturally better then other classes at that task, etc. What if he then gets to add his Expertise bonus, too?

==Aelryinth


Make spells level 5 and higher take much longer than a standard action to cast. Spells of specific power level should require more complex somatic gestures, vocalizations, and more intense focus. At best a high level spell should take a full round action to cast.

Dark Archive

this may cross a line but a home brewing idea I had was everyone starts as a fighter. that and im working on a prestige that is spell blade- all spells are delivered by bladestroke or other melee attack with out granting aoe. one turn to enchant unless the spell is faster (swift at best even if I find a worth while spell for free action)this would eliminate elemental and dot the range thing can still be a problem but hopefully a minor one. for all I know it already exists (I can't even begin to remember all the books and special adventure class material)


RedDingo wrote:
Make spells level 5 and higher take much longer than a standard action to cast. Spells of specific power level should require more complex somatic gestures, vocalizations, and more intense focus. At best a high level spell should take a full round action to cast.

In 1st Edition (not sure about 2nd but it probably carried over, since they were trying for backwards compatibility): Rounds were divided into 10 segments each, and the default casting time was 1 segment per spell level (although exceptions existed in both directions), so the higher level spell you tried to cast, the longer somebody had to whap you upside the head. (Weapons also had Speed Factors that tied into this same time subdivision system, with longer and heavier weapons having greater speed factors, which actually meant that they took longer to swing; unfortunately, although it was a neat idea, it fell victim to the organizational problems of 1st Edition, along with the accompanying Armor Class Adjustment by Weapon that was also neat in concept but botched in execution, so as far as I know nobody used this.)


UnArcaneElection wrote:
RedDingo wrote:
Make spells level 5 and higher take much longer than a standard action to cast. Spells of specific power level should require more complex somatic gestures, vocalizations, and more intense focus. At best a high level spell should take a full round action to cast.

In 1st Edition (not sure about 2nd but it probably carried over, since they were trying for backwards compatibility): Rounds were divided into 10 segments each, and the default casting time was 1 segment per spell level (although exceptions existed in both directions), so the higher level spell you tried to cast, the longer somebody had to whap you upside the head. (Weapons also had Speed Factors that tied into this same time subdivision system, with longer and heavier weapons having greater speed factors, which actually meant that they took longer to swing; unfortunately, although it was a neat idea, it fell victim to the organizational problems of 1st Edition, along with the accompanying Armor Class Adjustment by Weapon that was also neat in concept but botched in execution, so as far as I know nobody used this.)

I think it would balance out. High level martials normally have to use full attack actions to match the amount of damage high level casters can dole out in a standard action. That is part of what makes wizards quadratic. Either that or you'd have to sink feats in the Vital Strike tree.


Malwing wrote:
What have you done in your games that mitigate or lessen martial/caster disparity?

Among other things I increased the rate at which feats and stat gains are achieved, even levels get a feat, odd levels get a stat.

The level cap for the campaign is 13 (thus making 7th level magic the Holy Grail casters are chasing). 0 Level spells are gone.

Only one spell casting class allowed when multiclassing.
Multi-classing is allowed a maximum of 2 levels difference between classes (Fighter 2 / Mage 3 / PrC 2). PrC classes are restricted by the lowest level of any multiclassing.

NPC's have 1 - 3 levels in an NPC class. Thus Ari 2 / Paladin 3 / PrC 2.

No cross casting between Divine / Arcane by a single character.

Little resistance to magic (SR is gone, Evasion was overhauled, etc)

Fewer casters in the world (reduced to about 20% normal). Casters are feared and quickly targeted on a battlefield as being more dangerous opponents.

Healing magic is rare. Natural healing takes longer. Healing skill is FAR more valuable.

Single use magic items (potions and scrolls), and spell completion items (like wands), are completely gone. Mundane Alchemical items are seen more commonly.

Magic item bonuses scale based on character level.

Stat bonus items are completely gone. Items which offer immunity to spells and effects are completely gone. Creatures with Immunity to spells and effects are completely gone, replaced with resistance and improved saves.

Everything can be hit by either normal weapons or commonly available special material (fire, silver, etc).

The threshold for Massive Damage has been lowered and scales with character level.

All mages specialize but get 2 primary schools, non spec schools are reduced to 3rd level or lower, 3 restricted classes for all specialist (one of which must be necromancy as it is a campaign restriction only allowed by npc undead, evil priest, etc).

Influences to alot of this came from Game of Thrones D20, Iron Heros, etc.


johnnythexxxiv wrote:

...6: Not a house rule but, design encounters (both combat and social) in a way that should allow the spotlight to rotate easily from one character to the next without feeling like you're tearing it away from whoever it happens to be under just to be inclusive.

7: In a similar vein to 6, encourage cooperative play. Reward people for working together to find solutions or using tandem tactics to overcome threats. If someone's playing as a summoner, show your appreciation when they hand out flying mounts to the whole party for an aerial combat and show your displeasure when they take half an hour positioning all of their summons in a way that cuts off the fighter's charging lanes. People generally respond well positive feedback, so they're more likely to play cooperatively if they think they'll get a metaphorical cookie for playing nice....

Could you tell me a little more about this? Perhaps give an example or two? Are you talking about in-game rewards, or a more subtle social encouragement?

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

Lazlo.Arcadia wrote:


NPC's have 1 - 3 levels in an NPC class. Thus Ari 2 / Paladin 3 / PrC 2.

I went even simpler.

NPC's are mostly racial classes. http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/races/racialParagonClasses.htm

class levels only need to be tagged on if they make sense. Most NPC's with NPC class levels never get past 6th...if they get past 6th, they are extraordinary and use PC class levels, instead.

==Aelryinth

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