Dispelling Myths: The Caster-Martial Disparity


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Dispelling the Myths: Caster-Martial Disparity
If you've done much writing or reading 'round these parts on the subjects of game balance or mechanics or class comparison (at least, as they relate to Pathfinder), then you've probably encountered the topic of "caster-martial disparity" (which I'll often be abbreviating to "C/MD"). In a nutshell, it refers to the idea that there's a gap between the capabilities of spellcasters and the capabilities of martials (that is, non-caster classes). Now, let's be clear: my goal here is NOT to convince you that the C/MD does or does not exist. My goal here is to make future conversations more amiable and productive by helping people get on the same page. Maybe at the end of this post you end up changing your opinion one way or the other, or form a new opinion where you previously had none, or even keep whichever opinion you already had. That's not the point. The point is that maybe the next time you come across one of these conversations, you can contribute to a healthy discussion that unites rather than dividing.

You can't have productive conversations if you're talking past each other because you think the other person is saying something different than they mean. We're all interested in open communication, right? Great! Let's get started clearing up some of the common misunderstandings about the caster-martial disparity.

Myth #1: The Caster-Martial Disparity is primarily a combat issue.
This myth is usually not stated like this, but rather couched in some sort of imperative aimed at the person complaining. Something like, "Just tell your casters to stop optimizing so heavily for combat" or "Remember that the game is about more than just combat". Generally, it's a statement that if the other person and/or their group/GM would just put less emphasis on combat, then the C/MD would more or less disappear. This, in turn, indicates that the speaker believes the C/MD is a combat-oriented complaint.

It is certainly true that the C/MD includes combat; however, this is only perhaps 20-30% of what the C/MD is actually talking about. The primary complaints actually center around out-of-combat situations and how the characters are able to interact with the setting and narrative.

For example, where a martial has to make multiple saving throws per day against extreme weather, a simple 1st-level spell completely bypasses that obstacle for 24 hours. A wizard with the 2nd-level spell invisibility active is better at Stealth (even with no ranks) than a rogue with several ranks and a high DEX. The complaint is that for any given non-combat task, the magical solution is typically faster and more likely to succeed than the nonmagical solution (if a nonmagical solution even exists at all), and at a relatively trivial cost compared to what's being accomplished.

Combat is practically an afterthought.

Myth #2: The Caster-Martial Disparity is the product of exploiting loopholes or assuming very liberal interpretations of fuzzy rules.
It is certainly true that there are some spells with unclear boundaries, whose power level varies greatly depending on how their effects are adjudicated. Somewhere out there is somebody who treats charm person as mind control and then cites it as an example of C/MD. However, if you encountered that guy and then assumed he was representative of what the C/MD crowd is talking about, then you've swallowed this myth. Even if everyone complaining about C/MD adopted your interpretations of the unclear spells, the issue would not be solved, because those spells make up a tiny minority of the C/MD complaint.

Many of the most common "C/MD spells" are completely clear. There is no ambiguity in endure elements' ability to keep you from having to make Fortitude saves against harsh weather for 24 hours. There is no doubt that overland flight can get you across more and bigger obstacles than using Acrobatics to jump. The list goes on.

The point is, the people complaining about C/MD are not just those who stretch and twist ambiguous rules elements. Such cases are the exception, not the rule.

Myth #3: The Caster-Martial Disparity refers to just a small handful of obviously-broken spells that are easily identified and banned/houseruled.
This myth has a strong correlation to the previous one, in that they both (mistakenly) believe that the topic is much smaller than it truly is. Whereas the previous myth identifies a handful of ambiguous rules elements and attributes the entire concept of C/MD to them, this myth identifies a handful of overpowered spells/abilities and assumes that the whole C/MD is just talking about those.

As with Myth #2, this is not the case. Yes, things like blood money and simulacrum exist; any of us could easily rattle off a list of half a dozen or more "repeat offenders" without breaking a sweat. And yes, these clearly problematic spells contribute to the C/MD. However, it is not only these spells (nor is it the sum total of these spells and the spells from Myth #2) which give rise to the notion of a C/MD. The idea of the C/MD comes from huge swaths of spells, not from an easily-isolated subgroup.

So, once again, the "obvious" spells that a speaker is thinking of when proclaiming this myth are the minority, not the baseline, in regard to the C/MD.

Myth #4: The Caster-Martial Disparity is only an issue if you're trying to compete with your tablemates, forgetting that you're supposed to be a team.
One of the more judgmental myths, this one presumes that the only reason that it matters if one class might be more powerful than another is if the players are deliberately trying to "one-up" each other, or (as a close corollary) trying to "break" the game or "beat" the GM. Believers in this myth think that the C/MD is an issue of malicious (or at least immature or misguided) intent on the part of the players.

However, there are plenty of reasons this is not true. First, consider the role of a GM in a campaign in which classed humanoids (rather than monsters) are the primary antagonists. If such a GM wants to design, say, a CR 12 encounter for his players, then in theory a trio of 9th-level NPCs should do the trick. If the classes are balanced, then the encounter should be roughly the same difficulty whether the NPCs are all fighters or all wizards. But if the C/MD exists, then suddenly the GM has to adjust the NPCs' levels based on what classes the NPCs are. Nothing to do with player one-upmanship.

Second, consider a single player who, over the course of their gaming career, makes more than one character. The potential presence of the C/MD can matter to that player each time they try to decide on a new character to play. Why? Because if the C/MD is real, then certain classes will offer less or more opportunity to engage the narrative, and (assuming that narrative engagement is something the player wants) the list of classes which can offer that engagement may have little or no overlap with the list of classes which can faithfully represent the type of character they want to play. That is, a player might be left having to make a choice between "stay true to my concept but mostly be a spectator until something needs its HP depleted" or "get to really engage the game but at the cost of having to violate my concept". Once again, no malice or competitiveness to be found, and yet the C/MD matters.

There are other examples, but hopefully this is enough to show that the idea of the C/MD indicating asocial gameplay is nothing but a myth.

Myth #5: The people talking about Caster-Martial Disparity want all the classes to be the same.
Also showing up in broader discussions about class balance, this myth is basically the idea that what the people complaining about C/MD are asking for is for all the classes to be essentially the same, with labels of "magical" and "nonmagical" slapped onto near-identical abilities. This one's slightly more complex than some others, as it can sprout from different stalks, so to speak. Let's try to unpack it.

Sometimes, this myth arises when somebody first hears about the concept of C/MD and sees someone say that a high level martial should be able to duplicate plane shift or dimension door by (nonmagically) cutting open a hole in reality. The listener then understands C/MD to refer simply to classes having different abilities from each other, but doesn't see any real "disparity". In this case, this myth is a simple matter of the listener's first impression coming from a non-representative sample. Yeah, there are some folks out there who would like classes who are functionally near-identical. However, most people who complain about the C/MD want their classes to still be functionally different from each other, just brought closer in power.

Other times, this myth comes from a faulty mindset about the nature of balance. Many people wisely acknowledge that total balance among various game options is not possible (or even necessarily desirable). In fact, I think most people would agree to that. However, some folks seem to make one of two logical leaps: (1) believing that since perfect balance isn't a goal, improved balance shouldn't be a goal either; or (2) believing that the people who are complaining about C/MD are themselves striving for perfect balance. Please believe me when I say that neither of these is the case. While there might be a few outliers out there who wish for perfect balance, the bulk of C/MD discussion centers around simply improving balance, not smoothing everything into a homogeneous blur of nothingness.

Regardless of how one may have come to believe this myth of the desire for same-ness, please recognize that it is just that: a myth. The C/MD discussion is not about trying to make all the classes the same.

Myth #6: The Caster-Martial Disparity assumes a "Schrodinger's Wizard" who somehow manages to always have just the right spell prepped for any given situation.
This myth is the belief that those who complain about C/MD are somehow forgetting or understating the restrictions inherent in having to select your spell preparations at the start of the day. That is, despite a wizard's or cleric's access to a wide variety of spells, on any given day they have to choose which ones to prepare; they might prepare a spell to deal with situation A and then instead encounter situation B. This myth is the belief that the only way to conclude that the C/MD exists is through the ignorance or fudging of this reality; that in practice, the inherent limits of having to select your spells in advance is enough to balance the power of those spells. However, this too is a myth, for two reasons.

First, some spells are simply so versatile, able to overcome so many obstacles, that they're always worth preparing. For example, overland flight increases your travel speed, makes you immune to difficult terrain, helps bypass all sorts of geographical obstacles (rough rivers, cliffs, etc), keeps you safe from enemies whose danger comes from their melee power, and so forth. Summon monster spells can give you access to combat power, utility abilities like Earth Glide or Tremorsense, or even other spells (by means of a summoned creature's spell-like abilities). You don't have to guess whether such a spell will come in handy, because you can almost always find a use for it.

Second, for the spells that truly are situational enough that guessing which ones to prepare could be a real limiting factor, that potential limit is sidestepped by the scroll economy. Lots and lots of situational spells (like invisibility, remove blindness, lesser restoration, see invisibility, etc) are of relatively low level (usually about 1-3). This makes them relatively affordable as scrolls, which can be carried around until needed, without having to make the kinds of tough decisions referenced earlier. On top of that, casters typically have less need of magical weapons or armor, opening up a huge chunk of their budgets for the collection of these situational scrolls. Even in campaigns with relatively low access to the necessary markets for purchasing these scrolls, any spellcaster can take the Scribe Scroll feat and make their own. (Wizards even start with Scribe Scroll for free!)

To put it all together, the existence of scrolls gives casters a way to carry those situational spells without having to make the tough choices of preparation, freeing up their slots for the more powerful spells that give them consistent value day after day. Thus, although Schrodinger's Wizard might show up in an internet argument from time to time, he is by no means a required ingredient for the existence of a C/MD.

Myth #7: The Caster-Martial Disparity only exists in theory; in actual gameplay, it doesn't really happen.
Closely related to Myth #6, this myth gets tossed around a lot. Unfortunately, it's difficult to discuss because the people who say it tend not to give much to go on. Often, they just sort of declare it and expect that to settle the matter. It's also difficult because it usually comes alongside other myths.

For instance, someone might start by declaring that C/MD is just the work of theorycrafters and isn't present in actual gameplay. Then someone tells a story of a caster ending a fight in the surprise round, and the original speaker then invokes Myths #1 and/or #4 ("the game is more than combat"/"stop trying to compete with your friends"). Then someone else offers another story, and the speaker dismisses that one too by invoking another myth. Then another story, and another myth-based dismissal. This repeats over and over. The speaker might hear six different stories and dismiss each with a different myth. If he were to look at the big picture, he would see that he just encountered six different stories from six different people who encountered something he thought wasn't real.

Often, this turns into a pointless cycle: someone claims that C/MD only exists in theory, then they're given stories of actual gameplay. But then they dismiss the stories of actual gameplay as not counting for one reason or another, so people try to demonstrate their points more abstractly. But then they go right back to saying it only exists in theory. And no matter how many times they go around, all they see is an ever-increasing pile of outliers, rather than a trend. In the end, this is the most difficult myth to debunk, because doing so is a matter of getting people to accept that others can have legitimate experiences that are different from their own, and that's not something that you can get most people to do through reason alone.

Going Forward
Again, let me reaffirm that I'm not trying to change anyone's mind about the C/MD. You get to have your opinions. What I'm after here is to help people see that the differing opinions they may encounter might be of a different nature than they originally thought. Hopefully, this can help pave the way for smoother, more informative, more friendly, and more productive conversations in the future. Happy gaming, everyone. :)


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I was really worried when I read the title of this thread, but was pleasantly surprised once I started reading.

Silver Crusade

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Solid list here Jiggy, definitely something I'll point people to when things like this come up.

Looks like Kobold's got another thread to add to the list, smurf.


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Myth #0: It's a myth propagated by people with agendas.

Sorry I couldn't help myself.

Yeah, good list. I can't think of anything big you left off.


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RIP-OFF!:

Or The Angel summoner and the BMX Bandit.

The caster/martial disparity is a tendency for higher level magic using characters to outshine their non-magic using counterparts in many aspects of adventuring.

Before we go further, let's get specific about what we are talking about here:
Casters: For purposes of this topic, casters are the classes that have a caster level equal to class level, and generally have access to 9th level magic. Wizards are the most classic example of "caster", while druids, clerics, sorcerers, generally present similar issues. Classes that only have access to 6th level spells are generally considered "casters", although many people have far more problems with summoners then bards. Each class fits into the disparity is slightly different ways, although the end result is usually similar.

Martials: Martials are classes that never have a caster level, and whose class features are usually extraordinary special abilities, not supernatural or spell-like abilities. Fighters are the most representative martial class, with rogues, barbarians, and monks presenting fairly similar issues.

Others: Classes that have access to 4th level spells such as rangers and paladins are generally not considered to be representative of balance problems, and are used more as a reference point for appropriate class power rather then an exception to it. Some people put bards into this category, although summoners are almost always considered representative of casters.

Now that we have defined the caster/martial part, let's move on to "disparity". While many words such as imbalance and inequity get used to describe the issue, it is important to realize this is NOT about identical performance, perfect balance or sameness! No one is asking for the classes to perform the same, or have perfect mathematical equality. Generally, people find the core problem to be a lack of options for out of combat effectiveness for martial characters. Beyond use of skills, martial characters generally have no class features that allow them to influence the narrative. Monks and rogues have adequate and great skills respectively, however both classes infamously struggle to stay relevant in combat. As both classes were recently rewritten in Pathfinder Unchained, I'm not going to bother discussing their previous issues, except to mention that they both required full round actions to contribute well, and almost completely lacked a decent ranged attack option.

At the lowest levels of play, martial characters are often considered to be better off then casters. A strong fighter or skilled rogue can effectively solve most problems that low level adventures face, and magic is usually fairly limited. This is not to say that casters are weak, they are fully effective at facing CR appropriate encounters, and if built for it, can disrupt encounters from level 1.

Most effects of the disparity begin around level 6, although they frequently don't affect gameplay much until level 11 or so. These effects can be broken into several categories.

  • Point Buy Economy. Casters generally need only one really good stat, and have numerous class features (magic!), and supernatural and spell-like abilities that benefit from that stat. They also have class features to boost that stat, or compensate for a lack of other stats. Wizards often have more skill ranks then rogues later in the game, and the spellcraft skill is what item crafting is based off of. Bards and sorcerers are well set up to dominate social encounters. Druids and clerics can have great perception and whopping will save modifiers.

  • Action Economy. Generally, martial characters need a full attack action to be fully effective, while casters can generally do almost everything as standard actions. Casters are also given numerous class features that allow their player additional actions. From an animal companion or familiar, to summoned creatures, to dominated or bound minions, casters frequently act for several creatures, while martials are often forced to spend actions moving, switching weapons, etc.

  • Economy Economy. Casters are far more adept at creating their own magic items. This can have a drastic effect on individual power as magic items make up a substantial chunk of a characters power, especially as they get to the mid to high levels. Wizards easily have whopping spellcraft, bonus crafting feats, and the ability to access or bypass many crafting requirements. While a caster can craft for other party members, those items are treated as purchased when calculating WBL, while items the caster makes for themselves count as cost to craft. This results in casters often having 125% to 175% of WBL. Since casters often don't need weapons (some of the most expensive items) and get amazing use out of stat boosting items, they are much better served by the game economy.

  • Skills vs. Spells - Some martials have can have substantial access to skills, however, even max ranks and a decent ability modifier in a class skill is often a very poor substitute for what a spell can accomplish. Skills are useful if you need to do a fairly easy task for a long time, but in many cases, magic allows automatic success for more time then you need to accomplish the task. For example, rather then make a bunch of climb and acrobatics checks to climb up a 100' wall and cross a narrow ledge, the caster can just fly right up, much quicker, and with no checks required. While skills do have their place, they are severely limited for classes like the fighter, and many other martial classes lack the ranks or class skills to use them effectively. Casters generally also have ways to increase their use of skills, while martials have none. Several casting classes are better able to use skills, and even the "master of skills" - the rogue, is often outdone by bards and even wizards.

  • Versatility. Martial characters generally have three basic options for dealing with a combat situation: Melee attack vs. AC, Ranged attack vs. AC, or Attack vs. CMD. In social or adventuring encounters, they can use a skill. Casters on the other hand, can target AC, touch AC, 3 saves, etc. they can use deal damage from 5 different elements, force, positive/negative energy, etc. The can alter the environment, add allies, move friends or foes, buff/debuff, etc. Outside of combat, they can do... well... anything they wish. Prepared casters also have the option of selecting spells based on what they expect to face on a given day. Martials generally have no class options to customize their PC for specific situations.

What the caster martial disparity does NOT say (Or Myths about the caster martial disparity):

  • "Casters are better at fighting then martials" - Most people consider fighters and barbarians to excel at combat, however that is generally all they excel at. Due to limited skills and ability scores, and no class skills related to most social encounters, these classes are generally only able to contribute to combat, and even then frequently suffer if situations don't allow effective full attacking. While druids and clerics can be very effective in combat, it generally requires a few rounds, and the caster must sacrifice some casting power in exchange for martial prowess. The problem is that while the caster can play martial, martials can never play casters.

  • "Casters can finish any encounter with a single spell." - While this is occasionally true, the reality is that a spell is often enough to decide the encounter, while the martial characters often are just needed for coup de grace, or other shooting fish in a barrel uses.

  • "Casters are squishy" - Many people think that sorcerers and wizards are fragile and vulnerable on the battlefield. This has never been less true. Casters generally have good HP and thanks to spells like mirror image, invisibility, displacement and fly, they are often the safest PCs on the battlefield. All casters have good will saves, some have good fortitude saves, and they have numerous options for boosting saves, AC, HP, and other defenses. Casters also have ways to make themselves basically immune to everything from fire, to grappling, to mental effects. 3/4 BAB casters are generally not considered vulnerable on the battlefield.

  • "spells are a limited resource" - This was largely the balancing factor back in the AD&D era, however, running out of useful spells can easily be avoided once you get past the lower levels of the game. Most casters start with a few infinite-use 0 level spells, and frequently class abilities that can be used a half dozen times per day. Once you add in scrolls, wands, and other items, casters can frequently participate effectively in encounters without using any of their memorized spells or spell slots. Once you get past 10th level or so, most casters will have several dozen different daily options for effective magic use.

Why the Caster Martial Disparity might not appear in your games.
After leading a sheltered existence surrounded by luxury and game balance in his younger years, Prince Siddhārtha ventured out of his palace for the first time at the age of 29, accompanied by his charioteer Channa.
Prince Siddhārtha - "Why is that Fighter limping and covered in blood?"
Channa responded, "That Fighter has been injured in combat, and has no spells to heal with. Even the Heal skill is not a class skill for him."

As Pathfinder is a highly complex game, and varies widely from table to table, there are almost in infinite number of reasons it might appear or not. Here are some of the most common reasons it might not affect your games:

  • Most of your play happens under 10th level.
  • Players don't choose to play pure martial, or pure caster characters.
  • Caster players don't optimize, and/or martial players optimize heavily.
  • There is a spoken or unspoken agreement not to use some options and spells.
  • The GM is highly skilled in pacing, presenting a campaign setting, presenting challenges, and giving rewards that even out or minimize the disparity.
  • The GM alters dice rolls, and/or encounters so that everyone has fairly equal amounts of success.
  • The group views combat and/or other rules heavy parts of the game as something to get resolved as quickly as possible, in order to move on to more roleplay and storytelling elements.
  • House rules.

How to Fix the Disparity
"...I don't think its as big a deal as the internet makes it out to be. In my games, casters and non-casters tend to be equally valuable to the party, and equally dangerous in various situations as enemies. ...
...responsibility to keep things fair and fun for all involved lands on the GM's shoulders. ....
It's a balancing act."

-James Jacobs

  • 1) When making characters, no starting ability scores above 16, or below 10 after racial adjustment.
    That fixes many of the problems of class power imbalance, without altering any rule.
  • 2) Remove hold person and dominate person from the game. (If you want to keep hold/dominate monster, at least they are higher level spells.)
  • 3) 7th, 8th, and 9th level spells take at least a full round action to cast. Optionally, all save or suck/die spells take 1 round to cast. Removing the highest level spells from the game, and using the slots for metamagiced lower level spells (heighten spell feat free?) is a more extreme option.
  • 4) Spells with a duration of days/level get changed to hours/level. Some permanent spells might have their duration reduced.
  • 5) Remove quicken spell from the game, or make it apply only to spells with a range of personal.
  • 6) Remove or rewrite known problems like dazing spell meta-magic, witches slumber hex, and other obviously broken stuff.
  • 7)Consider crafted items the same as purchased when determining Wealth By Level. I would also make master craftsman into a more useful feat. To take it a step further, you could make crafted items cost market price to craft.
  • 8)It should be noted that many aspects of casters are intended to be limited by the GM. Access to new spells, planar binding/ally, divination magic, etc. are not blank checks or guaranteed success.
  • 9)Many intelligent foes will ready actions to disrupt spell casting. While it should be done rarely and only by appropriate foes, things like targeting a casters component pouch, wands, familiar and even spell books are not out of the question.
  • 10) Communicate with the players and explain that you don't want a lot of action denial techniques used in the game. RPG-Tag is not a fun way to play. This applies on both sides of the screen. I don't want to consistently take a player out of action with save-or-suck and for similar reasons, I don't want players using those tactics on my named NPC/monsters.

Just kidding! Well done Jiggy. I'm not going to say anymore, as threads I post in have been getting locked more often then not, and I don't want this one to get closed as well.


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Myth 7: It is always to the benefit of the players running casters.
Any capability that only casters can provide that the game has come to assume in any party is a constraint on how players can build their casters or may even force them to play casters they'd prefer not to. A player with a distinct theme for their caster may be forced by the C/MD to break their character concept to provide capabilities other classes cannot. This is historically associated with the healbot cleric, but can potentially occur with other kinds of spell.

It's bad for the fighter to need to be carried, but it's also bad for the wizard to need to carry the fighter. Blasty McBlasterson does not want to have to cast protection from energy on you. He doesn't want to even know protection from energy. It's not merely un-blasty but anti-blasty. See, it's even against his religion in the first draft of his backstory that he had to rewrite because your stupid fighter couldn't get energy resistance on his own.


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Jiggy wrote:
Really great stuff.

I'd have more to say, but it's already been said much better then I could. Hopefully this will cut down on the number of looping conversations. I'd favorite this about 5 times if I could.


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Indeed. This is worthy of a bookmark just to have laying about until this comes up the next time.

Hopefully the sheer number of links here is going to improve (filter, if you will) the discussion somewhat :P

Liberty's Edge

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Nice summary/clarification Jiggy!

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

So much of your debunking is true but fall in the "yes, but ..." area.

Part of the problem is too powerful spells, feats and magic items favoring spellcasters (mostly metamagic feats and items that give them for monetary cost), part of the problem is GMing (yes , you can rest in the middle of the dungeon so the casters get their spell back; the core of this encounter is a single monster that can be beaten with spell x that the caster always has ready; and so on ...), part is that some specific martial build can overcome an encounter by their first full attack or even in the surprise round (pouncing barbarian, archers) but often are narrow builds that reduce other options; and so on.

Practically almost any of the arguments that say that the disparity don't exist has some basis in truth while they aren't the whole truth.

The disparity exist? Sure, especially for the fighter. With different classes that get more (ex) abilities it is a bit smaller.

It can be reduced? Yes, limiting or removing access to some option and with a better GMing.

Another way to reduce it is playing from first level onward. A character made from scratch at level 10 generally is more optimized that one that has to play all levels, but that is even more true for spellcasters, where the choices you had to make at low level to survive can limit what you have available at higher level to optimize.

Note that the recent FAQ that say that spellcasting is always noticeable has reduced a bit the narrative power of spellcaster in social encounters.

To sum it up: the difference exist, but how large it is change with the group playing style.


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*Shurgs*

I agree with part of it , not all , with that said , i wouldnt move even a finger to change this from being there at all.

Still i dont really see what you hoped to accomplish , while i give kudos to the post , it is pretty much a resume of what people already discuss on the other threads right? Dont seem to be new points to me.

And if the person dont agree there with it , i dont see why they would agree here and thus there stop saying this doesnt exist or that they dont agree with point 1 , 2 or whatever.

I guess it is nice for some for a quick link.


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Milo v3 wrote:
I was really worried when I read the title of this thread, but was pleasantly surprised once I started reading.

I wasn't worried because he managed to behave civilly in the "Let's get some characters together and actually test for C/MD in an arena" thread.

Well said.


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
Nox Aeterna wrote:

Still i dont really see what you hoped to accomplish , while i give kudos to the post , it is pretty much a resume of what people already discuss on the other threads right? Dont seem to be new points to me.

And if the person dont agree there with it , i dont see why they would agree here and thus there stop saying this doesnt exist or that they dont agree with point 1 , 2 or whatever.

It's eloquent, clear, nonconfrontational and pretty exhaustive.

I would have liked to be pointed to this a couple of years ago (I didn't believe C/MD was a thing and it took a lot of patient forumites to persuade me - a link to Jiggy's post would have been much more efficient and probably a lot less frustrating for them).

Now I accept that C/MD is a real thing, although I also realise I like it that way (which shouldn't have been a factor in me not seeing it, but probably was). :)


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Steve Geddes wrote:
Now I accept that C/MD is a real thing, although I also realise I like it that way (which shouldn't have been a factor in me not seeing it, but probably was). :)

I do have to admit I do like it to a degree, though I can never place exactly why.

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

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Milo v3 wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:
Now I accept that C/MD is a real thing, although I also realise I like it that way (which shouldn't have been a factor in me not seeing it, but probably was). :)
I do have to admit I do like it to a degree, though I can never place exactly why.

I would imagine it grows from a preference for defining "fantasy" as "reality + magic" (which is a popular formula with a long and glorious tradition). If that's the fantasy you like, then it would be weird and jarring to not have a C/MD.


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Milo v3 wrote:
I do have to admit I do like it to a degree, though I can never place exactly why.

I quite like narratives where the mundane underdog somehow defeats or shows up the magical know-it-all who thinks he can do anything. Without unfair disparity, you can't heroically overcome unfair disparity.

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

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Nox Aeterna wrote:

Still i dont really see what you hoped to accomplish , while i give kudos to the post , it is pretty much a resume of what people already discuss on the other threads right? Dont seem to be new points to me.

And if the person dont agree there with it , i dont see why they would agree here and thus there stop saying this doesnt exist or that they dont agree with point 1 , 2 or whatever.

The first paragraph of the OP wrote:
Now, let's be clear: my goal here is NOT to convince you that the C/MD does or does not exist. My goal here is to make future conversations more amiable and productive by helping people get on the same page. Maybe at the end of this post you end up changing your opinion one way or the other, or form a new opinion where you previously had none, or even keep whichever opinion you already had. That's not the point. The point is that maybe the next time you come across one of these conversations, you can contribute to a healthy discussion that unites rather than dividing.


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Matthew Downie wrote:
Milo v3 wrote:
I do have to admit I do like it to a degree, though I can never place exactly why.
I quite like narratives where the mundane underdog somehow defeats or shows up the magical know-it-all who thinks he can do anything. Without unfair disparity, you can't heroically overcome unfair disparity.

IMO that's a valid trope...in something that's all about the narrative. But RPGs are games as well, and games require all options to at least TRY to have some semblance of equality.

At the very least it should be a CHOICE, not a trope the game FORCES you to play into.

Being the underdog is great, when you're facing a superior enemy force and come out on top. Not so much when you're stuck playing Krillin forever, while other people get to be Goku, Vegeta, and Piccolo.

Krillin is cool, Krillin is fun, but it gets kinda heartwrenching seeing the little guy work so hard and still get slapped down by 95% of the enemies he fights, only to have someone else come in and wreck them no issue, no matter how great the remaining 5% might feel.

Sometimes you want to be able to play what you want to play while not having to deal with the rest of the party showing you up all the time.


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Rynjin wrote:
Matthew Downie wrote:
Milo v3 wrote:
I do have to admit I do like it to a degree, though I can never place exactly why.
I quite like narratives where the mundane underdog somehow defeats or shows up the magical know-it-all who thinks he can do anything. Without unfair disparity, you can't heroically overcome unfair disparity.
IMO that's a valid trope...in something that's all about the narrative. But RPGs are games as well, and games require all options to at least TRY to have some semblance of equality.

Even in a narrative-focused context, M/C disparity raises serious issues.

The first, as Jiggy mentioned in the OP, is that it make it difficult to measure or assess unfair disparity. The cleanest way to make a superior enemy force is to make a more powerful enemy, which would in Pathfinder be measured by CR, hit dice, and/or level. A party of fifth level characters can easily be faced with "unfair disparity" when the BBEG is a CR 10 monster (or a 10th level character).

However, C/MD adds a needless wrinkle -- a level 10 monk is not nearly as unfairly disparate as a level 10 cleric. In theory, there should be some numbers to help you figure this out -- which is more appropriate as the BBEG, a level 10 cleric or a level 12 monk? (Or, alternatively, the monk could be redesigned to not suck in comparison to a cleric.)

The second is that even in a narrative-focused game, the heroes are normally an ensemble cast and should have an equal opportunity to do things and to meaningfully affect the story. There's a reason that humans are usually more popular as characters in Star Wars games than astromech droids; it's usually more fun to be the hero -- even the hero with a sense of humor -- than it does to be the butt of comedy relief.


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So, this thread is a thinly veiled, "The disparity is real!!!!!!" Thread. Gotcha.

Often ignored fact #1
Many, if not most, games do not have an issue or do not encounter the alleged C/MD.

Most proponents of the C/MD dismiss those who claim they don't encounter it by saying, "Well you must have a gentleman's agreement to..." Or "Your GM made a houserule to..." Or "I run a sandbox and it..."

The fact is there are always issues. Not everyone thinks there is a C/MD and from almost every invocation seems to have specific caveats applied, such as:

"Well we all know if only appears after level X."

"Well my caster ended it in the surprise round..."

And we ALL have stories like that.

Heck my Paladin killed a Dragon in 1 combat round. Chances are most Wizards can't do that. Being able to do something doesn't equate to a disparity.


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Let's not turn this thread into a crapfest in either direction. C/MD does raises some issues, but not necessarily serious issues, if well-managed by both the party and GM. And it is also true that sometimes casters are not as powerful as martials (though at level one a caster with color spray, ear-piercing scream, and glue seal can still do her share of destruction).

The C/MD is real. It is not inherently evil nor is it a fantasy propagated by people who hate casters. I think it's fair to ask if it's something necessary for PF to operate. I don't believe for a second it's going anywhere and would probably be pretty disappointed if it did. The good news is that we're not locked into our roles. So some days we can be Belgarath, others we can be Bronn, and that's okay.


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Thanks, Mr. Create Mr. Pitt!

I... I almost failed my will save...


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HWalsh wrote:
So, this thread is a thinly veiled, "The disparity is real!!!!!!" Thread. Gotcha.

It's a plainly stated "The disparity is real" thread. Were you in such a rush to make a snarky response that you didn't even bother to check if it made sense or not?

The rest of your post confirms you didn't read the OP.


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HWalsh wrote:


Often ignored fact #1
Many, if not most, games do not have an issue or do not encounter the alleged C/MD.

Quote:

Myth #7: The Caster-Martial Disparity only exists in theory; in actual gameplay, it doesn't really happen.

Closely related to Myth #6, this myth gets tossed around a lot. Unfortunately, it's difficult to discuss because the people who say it tend not to give much to go on. Often, they just sort of declare it and expect that to settle the matter. It's also difficult because it usually comes alongside other myths.

For instance, someone might start by declaring that C/MD is just the work of theorycrafters and isn't present in actual gameplay. Then someone tells a story of a caster ending a fight in the surprise round, and the original speaker then invokes Myths #1 and/or #4 ("the game is more than combat"/"stop trying to compete with your friends"). Then someone else offers another story, and the speaker dismisses that one too by invoking another myth. Then another story, and another myth-based dismissal. This repeats over and over. The speaker might hear six different stories and dismiss each with a different myth. If he were to look at the big picture, he would see that he just encountered six different stories from six different people who encountered something he thought wasn't real.

Often, this turns into a pointless cycle: someone claims that C/MD only exists in theory, then they're given stories of actual gameplay. But then they dismiss the stories of actual gameplay as not counting for one reason or another, so people try to demonstrate their points more abstractly. But then they go right back to saying it only exists in theory. And no matter how many times they go around, all they see is an ever-increasing pile of outliers, rather than a trend. In the end, this is the most difficult myth to debunk, because doing so is a matter of getting people to accept that others can have legitimate experiences that are different from their own, and that's not something that you can get most people to do through reason alone.

Scarab Sages

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Again, the issue with C/MD IS NOT COMBAT. In combat martial characters shine. The issue is the vast power of narrative altering power that the casters can bring out of combat. Invisibility, Flight, Teleport, Wish, Create Demiplane... They can tell the laws of physics to sit down and shut up.

That is something that until very recently could not be replicated at all by martials, and that is the problem.

Without the same narrative power, martial characters are really nothing more than glorified NPCs, you act as bodyguards for the casters who do all the real work of moving the plot along.


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I posted a similar list some years ago and added it to my profile, it came up so often. Mine was similar, but a lot less polite, and included less discussion. I append it here because it includes a few additional myths that Jiggy's excellent post didn't cover:

1. Myth: "I've never seen this problem, therefore it doesn't exist." (See Jiggy's #7)
Answer: I've never been to China, but I don't deny its existence. I just haven't gone there.

2. Myth: "Any attempt at balancing classes inexorably leads to 4e!" (See Jiggy's #5)
Response: ...except when it doesn't, like Frank and K's Tomes, or Szatany's Ultimate Classes, or Kirthfinder.

3. Myth: "Martials are SUPPOSED to be worse than casters -- it's more realistic!" (Missing from Jiggy's list, but Orfamay Quest alluded to it)
Response: No, not as long as a 10th level fighter PC and 10th level wizard PC are both CR 10. In that case, it's completely missing what a "character level" is.

4. Myth: "You just want fighters to teleport and throw fireballs!" (See Jiggy's #5 again)
Answer: Hardly anyone is advocating anything like that. But fighters and rogues do need their own ways of meeting level-appropriate challenges. Even if those methods bear no resemblance to spells, they should still be able to get the job done.

5. Myth: "It's a team game, so it's OK if your class is weaker!" (See Jiggy's #4)
Answer: No one wants to play Scrappy Doo when the rest of the party is the Avengers -- at least, not in a half-serious game.

6. "I never have this problem because the DM fixes it!" (Alluded to in Jiggy's #2 and #7)
Answer: Then you're playing storytime hour, not Pathfinder. If we fixed the problems, you could still play storytime hour, and we would BOTH win.

7. "I can still have fun playing a fighter/monk/rogue." (Missing from Jiggy's list)
Answer: I can have fun playing a Commoner. That doesn't mean it's a viable class compared to the others.

8. Myth: "Fighters can do it all day long!" (Can be rolled into Jiggy's #1)
Answer: Not if they run out of hp.

9. "My fighter is fine in combat!" (Jiggy's #1)
Answer: If all there is to your game is lining up and blindly walking into staged combats, then the fighter is fine in your game, but he isn't in most other peoples' games. And it's not because of his attack bonus.

10. Myth: "Anyone who thinks fighters and rogues aren't fine is a Shroedinger Theorycrafter who never actually plays." (Jiggy's #6 and #7)
Answer: No, many of us saw just how badly the mundane classes lag by actually playing with people who weren't afraid to stop pulling their casters' punches. I never saw the disparity on paper until I saw it in play.

11. Myth: "Fighters are awesome because you can fix all their problems by spending more feats and money." (Missing from Jiggy's list)
Answer: Even they don't get nearly enough feats for that, and they still get near-nothing for skills, and unless they get a bajillion gold as a class feature to spend on whatever they want, they can't possibly buy enough stuff to do their job and still shore up their glaring weaknesses.

12. Myth: "It's only a few vocal people who hate fighters and rogues who are trying to ruin it for the rest of us!" (Alluded to)
Answer: Some of us LOVE fighters and rogues, and would like to be able to play them and still be something other than a caddy after 6th level.


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My biggest issue with the discussion is that it appears most notably at levels that I never play at. Why do I care about Wish, Create Demiplane, Simulacrum, etc., when I never see characters at that level?

One of my annoyances about the boards is that it seems that so many people appear to only play level 20 / mythic rank 10 characters when most of my game play is at the lower levels.


MeanMutton wrote:

My biggest issue with the discussion is that it appears most notably at levels that I never play at. Why do I care about Wish, Create Demiplane, Simulacrum, etc., when I never see characters at that level?

One of my annoyances about the boards is that it seems that so many people appear to only play level 20 / mythic rank 10 characters when most of my game play is at the lower levels.

I see it typically with levels 8+ myself.

It can happen at lower levels too depending on the classes involved. Divine casters can be terrifyingly dominant at all levels depending on system mastery.


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One of the biggest causes of the disparity is that in Pathfinder there is a very limited case of extended confrontations. Very few GMs and basically no APs require you any sort of endurance. You can always stop, go home, rest up, and continue on. That changes the game from "how many times a day can my caster cast a spell" to "how many encounters per day can we have before we rest".

If we had more encounters per day, more rounds of combat per day, the disparity would mitigate itself. But no one does that. Instead, they scale the adventuring day around the wizard because he whines when he's out of spells and is reduced to shooting of 1d3 blasts of acid.


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Well thought out post.

However,I don't think that the disparity that exists is as large as some seem to claim, or that it's even a very big problem. Most games I've played in are happy to overcome an obstacle together, even if someone else provided the key.

Something I haven't seen mentioned is that a caster is better off as a force multiplier than trying to steal the show: Invisibly is usually better to cast on the rogue. Overland Flight is great, but it only helps the caster (who probably can't carry party members over that chasm) - casting Fly on the big strong fighter is more useful there, and in many fights as well (similarly, telekinetic is a great spell that makes teamwork shine). When I play a caster, I want to save my spells when I can and let the social characters talk first (which sometimes includes my own social skills too), before resorting to magic that could fail and hinder further attempts (assuming I even have the right spell ready for that situation).

Not to mention that many martial-types can access some of these abilities through either their own limited spellcasting, other features/feats, or consumables (though I admit they sometimes come with greater cost or less versatility compared to a pure caster).

Overall, it's not something I worry about that much, nor have I seen it significantly impact the enjoyment of players in any games I've been in. There are usually much more noticeable issues, such as differing levels of optimization, or conflicting styles of play. Luckily, those are much easier to fix.

Edit- more examples.


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HWalsh wrote:
Many, if not most, games do not have an issue or do not encounter the alleged C/MD.
Jiggy wrote:
Myth #7: The Caster-Martial Disparity only exists in theory; in actual gameplay, it doesn't really happen.

You're just proving his point for him...

Listen, I'll be the first to admit that I've never experienced this in any game I've been in. That does not mean that the ability to create characters of almost insanely disparate power levels does not exist. Some things are true whether you believe them or not. For a long period of time people would actively persecute anyone that said the world was round.


MeanMutton wrote:

My biggest issue with the discussion is that it appears most notably at levels that I never play at. Why do I care about Wish, Create Demiplane, Simulacrum, etc., when I never see characters at that level?

One of my annoyances about the boards is that it seems that so many people appear to only play level 20 / mythic rank 10 characters when most of my game play is at the lower levels.

Jiggy wrote:

Myth #7: The Caster-Martial Disparity only exists in theory; in actual gameplay, it doesn't really happen.

Closely related to Myth #6, this myth gets tossed around a lot. Unfortunately, it's difficult to discuss because the people who say it tend not to give much to go on. Often, they just sort of declare it and expect that to settle the matter. It's also difficult because it usually comes alongside other myths.

For instance, someone might start by declaring that C/MD is just the work of theorycrafters and isn't present in actual gameplay. Then someone tells a story of a caster ending a fight in the surprise round, and the original speaker then invokes Myths #1 and/or #4 ("the game is more than combat"/"stop trying to compete with your friends"). Then someone else offers another story, and the speaker dismisses that one too by invoking another myth. Then another story, and another myth-based dismissal. This repeats over and over. The speaker might hear six different stories and dismiss each with a different myth. If he were to look at the big picture, he would see that he just encountered six different stories from six different people who encountered something he thought wasn't real.

Often, this turns into a pointless cycle: someone claims that C/MD only exists in theory, then they're given stories of actual gameplay. But then they dismiss the stories of actual gameplay as not counting for one reason or another, so people try to demonstrate their points more abstractly. But then they go right back to saying it only exists in theory. And no matter how many times they go around, all they see is an ever-increasing pile of outliers, rather than a trend. In the end, this is the most difficult myth to debunk, because doing so is a matter of getting people to accept that others can have legitimate experiences that are different from their own, and that's not something that you can get most people to do through reason alone.

That said, you can get into game-breaking things fairly early. How do you feel about 8.4k items, which is accessible by 7th-8th level? Scrolls also make this possible. Don't have a magic mart? Item crafting and spellfocus can handle this.


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MeanMutton wrote:
My biggest issue with the discussion is that it appears most notably at levels that I never play at. Why do I care about Wish, Create Demiplane, Simulacrum, etc., when I never see characters at that level?

See also Jiggy's Myth #3. I never play past 17th, very rarely past 11th, and usually lower, but I still see the disparity. It's less glaring and more easily-managed at lower levels, and it does indeed become a worse and worse issue later on, but it's still there.


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MeanMutton wrote:

One of the biggest causes of the disparity is that in Pathfinder there is a very limited case of extended confrontations. Very few GMs and basically no APs require you any sort of endurance. You can always stop, go home, rest up, and continue on. That changes the game from "how many times a day can my caster cast a spell" to "how many encounters per day can we have before we rest".

If we had more encounters per day, more rounds of combat per day, the disparity would mitigate itself. But no one does that. Instead, they scale the adventuring day around the wizard because he whines when he's out of spells and is reduced to shooting of 1d3 blasts of acid.

My myths #8 and #9, and Jiggy's #1.


MeanMutton wrote:

One of the biggest causes of the disparity is that in Pathfinder there is a very limited case of extended confrontations. Very few GMs and basically no APs require you any sort of endurance. You can always stop, go home, rest up, and continue on. That changes the game from "how many times a day can my caster cast a spell" to "how many encounters per day can we have before we rest".

If we had more encounters per day, more rounds of combat per day, the disparity would mitigate itself. But no one does that. Instead, they scale the adventuring day around the wizard because he whines when he's out of spells and is reduced to shooting of 1d3 blasts of acid.

Jiggy wrote:


Myth #1: The Caster-Martial Disparity is primarily a combat issue.
This myth is usually not stated like this, but rather couched in some sort of imperative aimed at the person complaining. Something like, "Just tell your casters to stop optimizing so heavily for combat" or "Remember that the game is about more than just combat". Generally, it's a statement that if the other person and/or their group/GM would just put less emphasis on combat, then the C/MD would more or less disappear. This, in turn, indicates that the speaker believes the C/MD is a combat-oriented complaint.

It is certainly true that the C/MD includes combat; however, this is only perhaps 20-30% of what the C/MD is actually talking about. The primary complaints actually center around out-of-combat situations and how the characters are able to interact with the setting and narrative.

For example, where a martial has to make multiple saving throws per day against extreme weather, a simple 1st-level spell completely bypasses that obstacle for 24 hours. A wizard with the 2nd-level spell invisibility active is better at Stealth (even with no ranks) than a rogue with several ranks and a high DEX. The complaint is that for any given non-combat task, the magical solution is typically faster and more likely to succeed than the nonmagical solution (if a nonmagical solution even exists at all), and at a relatively trivial cost compared to what's being accomplished.

Combat is practically an afterthought.

<snip>

Myth #6: The Caster-Martial Disparity assumes a "Schrodinger's Wizard" who somehow manages to always have just the right spell prepped for any given situation.
This myth is the belief that those who complain about C/MD are somehow forgetting or understating the restrictions inherent in having to select your spell preparations at the start of the day. That is, despite a wizard's or cleric's access to a wide variety of spells, on any given day they have to choose which ones to prepare; they might prepare a spell to deal with situation A and then instead encounter situation B. This myth is the belief that the only way to conclude that the C/MD exists is through the ignorance or fudging of this reality; that in practice, the inherent limits of having to select your spells in advance is enough to balance the power of those spells. However, this too is a myth, for two reasons.

First, some spells are simply so versatile, able to overcome so many obstacles, that they're always worth preparing. For example, overland flight increases your travel speed, makes you immune to difficult terrain, helps bypass all sorts of geographical obstacles (rough rivers, cliffs, etc), keeps you safe from enemies whose danger comes from their melee power, and so forth. Summon monster spells can give you access to combat power, utility abilities like Earth Glide or Tremorsense, or even other spells (by means of a summoned creature's spell-like abilities). You don't have to guess whether such a spell will come in handy, because you can almost always find a use for it.

Second, for the spells that truly are situational enough that guessing which ones to prepare could be a real limiting factor, that potential limit is sidestepped by the scroll economy. Lots and lots of situational spells (like invisibility, remove blindness, lesser restoration, see invisibility, etc) are of relatively low level (usually about 1-3). This makes them relatively affordable as scrolls, which can be carried around until needed, without having to make the kinds of tough decisions referenced earlier. On top of that, casters typically have less need of magical weapons or armor, opening up a huge chunk of their budgets for the collection of these situational scrolls. Even in campaigns with relatively low access to the necessary markets for purchasing these scrolls, any spellcaster can take the Scribe Scroll feat and make their own. (Wizards even start with Scribe Scroll for free!)

To put it all together, the existence of scrolls gives casters a way to carry those situational spells without having to make the tough choices of preparation, freeing up their slots for the more powerful spells that give them consistent value day after day. Thus, although Schrodinger's Wizard might show up in an internet argument from time to time, he is by no means a required ingredient for the existence of a C/MD.


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MeanMutton wrote:

One of the biggest causes of the disparity is that in Pathfinder there is a very limited case of extended confrontations. Very few GMs and basically no APs require you any sort of endurance. You can always stop, go home, rest up, and continue on. That changes the game from "how many times a day can my caster cast a spell" to "how many encounters per day can we have before we rest".

If we had more encounters per day, more rounds of combat per day, the disparity would mitigate itself. But no one does that. Instead, they scale the adventuring day around the wizard because he whines when he's out of spells and is reduced to shooting of 1d3 blasts of acid.

The trouble with this argument is that at some point you commit the greater sin of robbing player's of agency.

Even should you avoid that you run into the issue where you can't control the minds of the players nor necessarily the actions of the character. If there is a way to avoid a fight you can bet they'll look for it.

Which, again, casters seem far better equipped to do.


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MeanMutton wrote:

My biggest issue with the discussion is that it appears most notably at levels that I never play at. Why do I care about Wish, Create Demiplane, Simulacrum, etc., when I never see characters at that level?

One of my annoyances about the boards is that it seems that so many people appear to only play level 20 / mythic rank 10 characters when most of my game play is at the lower levels.

Why would you have an issue with a discussion just because it doesn't apply to the specific type of game you play?

I've seen mundane scouts looking useless because a level 4 druid can do it better by turning into an animal.

Of course, that only occurs in 38.736% of actual games.


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This isn't going to be a very interesting thread if people just keep quoting the OP as though they're making a point.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Choose the path of awesomeness. Start with a martial and get rid of this character in favor of a caster when the disparity rears its ugly head


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Paulicus wrote:
This isn't going to be a very interesting thread if people just keep quoting the OP as though they're making a point.

They're not just quoting it at random; they're selectively quoting the parts that already covered at some length some "breathtaking new idea" that gets "introduced."


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Paulicus wrote:
This isn't going to be a very interesting thread if people just keep quoting the OP as though they're making a point.

It's super interesting because it shows exactly which people are too lazy to read the first post in the thread that preemptively rebutted the argument they're trying to make.


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Kirth Gersen wrote:
Paulicus wrote:
This isn't going to be a very interesting thread if people just keep quoting the OP as though they're making a point.
They're not just quoting it at random; they're selectively quoting the parts that already covered at some length some "breathtaking new idea" that gets "introduced."

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. This old axiom applies to arguments as well as objects.

Silver Crusade

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Rynjin wrote:
Paulicus wrote:
This isn't going to be a very interesting thread if people just keep quoting the OP as though they're making a point.
It's super interesting because it shows exactly which people are too lazy to read the first post in the thread that preemptively rebutted the argument they're trying to make.

This is how I feel as well. You can complain people are just quoting, but they're quoting relevant parts of the text. This is all covered, so it's just proving that the non disparity side is repeating the same myths, myths that have been covered in the original post.


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I used to think that the disparity was blown out of proportion. Then as i played i slowly realized that non-casters have less options and versatility than casters.

Compare a Fighter to a Paladin or Ranger. Which has better options in combat or out of combat?

Then compare a Paladin or Ranger to a Druid or Wizard.

Casters can change their options every single day. Versatility is power.

Recently with Unchained and Weapon Master Handbook more options have become available to non-casters. It's gotten much better in my opinion.

Just search the forum for "Arkalion" if you don't think the C/MD is real.

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

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Kirth Gersen wrote:
3. Myth: "Martials are SUPPOSED to be worse than casters -- it's more realistic!" (Missing from Jiggy's list, but Orfamay Quest alluded to it)

This item's absence from my list is actually quite deliberate. I was trying to focus on areas where the speaker of the myth is misunderstanding something about other people's thoughts/beliefs. The notion of knowing the C/MD exists and liking it is entirely outside the scope of what I was trying to discuss. (I also wouldn't want to suggest it's a "myth" that needs to be "debunked"; rather, it's a perfectly legitimate preference.)


On topic, I think Myth #7 is your weakest point, Jiggy, since it's based mostly on assumption and fails to account for the fact that anecdotal evidence can be presented and dismissed to support either conclusion. The only way to really know would be a detailed study that isn't likely to happen.

I still believe that teamwork eliminates any "bad feelings" that come from the disparity, which addresses a good portion of the complaints.

GMs always have to gauge the abilities of a given creature vs it's CR. That happens even without difference in classes. A shadow is a potent enemy for CR 3, for example. It's an issue with an imperfect system of rating hugely varied creatures together on a difficulty scale.

With the ridiculous number of classes that now exist, I think the issue is certainly getting smaller. It's certainly getting easier to find viable classes for a given concept.

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

Paulicus wrote:
On topic, I think Myth #7 is your weakest point, Jiggy, since it's based mostly on assumption and fails to account for the fact that anecdotal evidence can be presented and dismissed to support either conclusion. The only way to really know would be a detailed study that isn't likely to happen.

Are you under the impression that my discussion of #7 was attempting to draw conclusions about the presence or absence of C/MD in Pathfinder?


Jiggy wrote:
The notion of knowing the C/MD exists and liking it is entirely outside the scope of what I was trying to discuss. (I also wouldn't want to suggest it's a "myth" that needs to be "debunked"; rather, it's a perfectly legitimate preference.)

I agree, with the caveat that if you do so, throw away the terms "character level" and scrap the whole CR system. As long as a 10th level NPC fighter is supposedly CR 9 -- an equal threat to the party as a 10th level NPC wizard who is also CR 9 -- but isn't, then the game doesn't actually function correctly on some level.


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MeanMutton wrote:
My biggest issue with the discussion is that it appears most notably at levels that I never play at. Why do I care about Wish, Create Demiplane, Simulacrum, etc., when I never see characters at that level?

In my experience -- and I believe the experience of many others on the forum, the issue becomes noticeable at 6-8 level. (There's a reason P6 is so popular and so often recommended as an alternative framework.)

Basically, third-level spells are where casters start to be able to do things not merely better than martials, but that the martials can't do at all.

A few examples:

fireball -- martials have no way of doing substantial amounts of hit point damage to multiple targets as a standard action (or, more tersely, martials lack AoE attacks).

fly -- martials lack the ability to free-fly

dispel magic -- martials lack the ability to negate enemy spells that have been cast.

marionette possession -- martials lack the ability to compel behavior from another person

burrow -- as with fly, this is a movement type unavailable to martials

water breathing -- self-explanatory

free hand -- martials lack the ability to manipulate objects at 15 feet or more range.

A simple example of a barrier that can only be bypassed magically is a button (with a molly-guard) placed thirty feet behind an adamantine portcullis. Press the button and the portcullis lifts. This could easily be bypassed by a free hand spell, or possibly even prestidigitation, but would be an unstoppable barrier to a 5th level fighter.


A level 10 NPC wizard may or may not be a serious threat, depending on spells and such - just as a heavily optimised 10th level NPC fighter might kill off a PC every round. After all, most of this disparity issue is non-combat based.

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