Level 5 play experience: What am I missing?


5th Edition (And Beyond)

Sovereign Court

Greetings,

So I joined a 5E game at work to get a feel for the new D&D. I really liked what I was reading about BA and (dis)advantage. A quicker combat game with less mechanical baggage sounded sweet. Now I wanted to get into the mix and see how it plays.

Well, I rolled up a half-elf Sorc to fit in with the groups existing half-orc bard, dorf cleric, and human ranger. A few session in we got a human fighter also to join up.

So far most of our game has been combat due to the time we play (over lunch at work). This is fine because its what I really wanted to try out. I will admit I was a little biased about cantrips that scale. However, after playing I really think 5E gives casters a big advantage. So at level 5 the damage dice is now doubled on cantrips. That means a caster gets double dice on a single hit. Martials get two attacks but must hit twice. My experience so far is that martials are falling behind me because they often miss one of the attacks.

Other comparisons are AC and HP. Its true casters have much less HP but its become pretty easy to armor up a caster in this edition. Also, the daily spells can give a boost like blur and mirror image. Martials don't really have anything to compare.

Admittedly the group im playing with isn't the most optimized or rules proficient. Care to chime in about your experiences? Id love to see what we are missing or if casters once again really have the leg up on martials.


I've played a lot of 5e and haven't really noticed that. For instance, caster's hurling cantrips still need to roll attack rolls for most attack spells (eldritch blast, flame bolt etc..), so they still have just a much of a chance of missing as fighter types. Also cantrips don't normally add any stat modifiers to their damage (unless you do a warlock that picks the benefit that lets you add your Cha), so generally their cantrip damage output won't be as good as say a fighter's damage. They can do more with their higher level spells, but a 5th level caster only has 1 3rd level slot.

Wizards have to budget their spells carefully, because they don't have that many nor do they recover that fast. For example, they don't get as many spells per day as an equivalent level pathfinder caster does. A fighter gets back most of his abilities after a short rest (action surge, second wind, superiority dice etc...), so fighter types can go a lot longer without needing an extended rest.

I ran a fighter, through most of the Tyranny of Dragons campaign from 1st to 11th level and never had any trouble keeping up with the casters.


You make good observations. Two points to consider:

1) Anyone in the game can get a cantrip. They're accessible with just a feat. Do note that feats are optional, but I've only ever heard of one group that doesn't use them.

2) Martials do get extra attack at level 5, and it does require two attacks, but that's also two ability score modifiers added in (+str or +dex both times).

As for personal experience - in every game I'm in, the martials do significantly more damage than everyone else. It might be because other people focus on other things, like casting non-damage spells.


A well place fireball can still be a huge game changer in a fight, but a 5th level mage isn't likely going to be throwing out too many of those.

Currently I have a 3rd level ranger. With two weapon style I can make 2 attacks most round and add my stat mod to damage. At 5th level that will become 3 per round. I can also usually deal an extra d8 to one of the attacks for my colossus slayer feature, and often have hunter's mark going, which can add another d6 to damage. I find his damage output keeps up with any of the spell casters just fine.

Sovereign Court

P.H. Dungeon wrote:


Wizards have to budget their spells carefully, because they don't have that many nor do they recover that fast. For example, they don't get as many spells per day as an equivalent level pathfinder caster does. A fighter gets back most of his abilities after a short rest (action surge, second wind, superiority dice etc...), so fighter types can go a lot longer without needing an extended rest.

I ran a fighter, through most of the Tyranny of Dragons campaign from 1st to 11th level and never had any trouble keeping up with the casters.

I think this highlights the issue with my current group. I've never heard them use second wind, action surge, or superiority dice. I think they just glanced over that stuff and forgot about it in favor of just their regular swing.

Ill report back about our sessions and see if things clear up a bit with some more table time.


Pan wrote:

Greetings,

So I joined a 5E game at work to get a feel for the new D&D. I really liked what I was reading about BA and (dis)advantage. A quicker combat game with less mechanical baggage sounded sweet. Now I wanted to get into the mix and see how it plays.

Well, I rolled up a half-elf Sorc to fit in with the groups existing half-orc bard, dorf cleric, and human ranger. A few session in we got a human fighter also to join up.

So far most of our game has been combat due to the time we play (over lunch at work). This is fine because its what I really wanted to try out. I will admit I was a little biased about cantrips that scale. However, after playing I really think 5E gives casters a big advantage. So at level 5 the damage dice is now doubled on cantrips. That means a caster gets double dice on a single hit. Martials get two attacks but must hit twice. My experience so far is that martials are falling behind me because they often miss one of the attacks.

Your cantrips never suffer from a missed attack roll/failed save? Statistically it should even itself out with martial attacks in long term, unless the caster is particulary lucky/martial is unlucky...


As far as AC goes my level 7 group have two characters (Barbarian/Fighter and a Paladin) who have AC above 20. The rest of the party are still sitting from 15-17.

Also when I do get a hit through on those characters The Paladin has the heavy armour master feat, so he reduces most damage by 3 and the barbarian/Fighter is often raging and reduces damage by half.


Kip84 wrote:

As far as AC goes my level 7 group have two characters (Barbarian/Fighter and a Paladin) who have AC above 20. The rest of the party are still sitting from 15-17.

Also when I do get a hit through on those characters The Paladin has the heavy armour master feat, so he reduces most damage by 3 and the barbarian/Fighter is often raging and reduces damage by half.

The paladin in my group is the same way. AC at 23. I've started to incorporate it into the roleplay, where certain bad guys hyper focus on him, determined that they will get past his armor.

I even have one character (an assassin who's in love with him) just bounced and Acrobatics around him stabbing at him all the time when they meet up, never getting past his armor.


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Pan wrote:
I will admit I was a little biased about cantrips that scale. However, after playing I really think 5E gives casters a big advantage. So at level 5 the damage dice is now doubled on cantrips. That means a caster gets double dice on a single hit. Martials get two attacks but must hit twice. My experience so far is that martials are falling behind me because they often miss one of the attacks.

I think you're missing the fact that martials get to add their stat bonus to damage dice. The fighting types roll only one die but generally add 3 or 4 to each damage roll. So if both their attacks hit they'll do considerably more than your single double-die damage roll (and they're getting two chances at a critical). If only one hits they'll probably be close but perhaps a little lower than you on average, depending on the damage dice of your cantrip - though they also have a higher minimum damage of 4 or 5 rather than your potential minimum of 2.

In addition there are a variety of feats which, if they're available in your game, allow a fighter to boost their damage output considerably with no corresponding feat for the casting types.


bookrat wrote:
Kip84 wrote:

As far as AC goes my level 7 group have two characters (Barbarian/Fighter and a Paladin) who have AC above 20. The rest of the party are still sitting from 15-17.

Also when I do get a hit through on those characters The Paladin has the heavy armour master feat, so he reduces most damage by 3 and the barbarian/Fighter is often raging and reduces damage by half.

The paladin in my group is the same way. AC at 23. I've started to incorporate it into the roleplay, where certain bad guys hyper focus on him, determined that they will get past his armor.

I even have one character (an assassin who's in love with him) just bounced and Acrobatics around him stabbing at him all the time when they meet up, never getting past his armor.

Yeah, the paladin in my group regularly goes for the biggest baddest enemy he can. I've started giving them magic weapons and such, or simply upping their to hit bonus by 2 or so. Not every time, but I have to hit him sometimes... Right? :D

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Pan wrote:
I will admit I was a little biased about cantrips that scale. However, after playing I really think 5E gives casters a big advantage. So at level 5 the damage dice is now doubled on cantrips. That means a caster gets double dice on a single hit. Martials get two attacks but must hit twice. My experience so far is that martials are falling behind me because they often miss one of the attacks.

Your perception's off. The average damage of a Fire Bolt and one hit from a greatsword at 5th level are the same (and the longsword's not far behind), but the greatsword has two chances to hit (not to mention the possibility of hitting twice). And that's before we even touch the damage-boosting martial class features.

Quote:
Other comparisons are AC and HP. Its true casters have much less HP but its become pretty easy to armor up a caster in this edition. Also, the daily spells can give a boost like blur and mirror image. Martials don't really have anything to compare.

Hm, I think you need to fact-check. How are these casters getting "armored up"? Even mage armor with the maximum of 20 DEX is only 18 AC, which is equivalent to full plate (with no shield). What exactly are people's armor situations?

Regarding defensive buffs, remember how concentration works in 5E. I don't have my book, but I'd wager a guess that both blur and mirror image require concentration, which means you can't have them both up at once and also can't have either of them running at the same time as a number of other great spells (like bless, invisibility, fly, hold person, etc). Is this mechanic being enforced?

Quote:
Admittedly the group im playing with isn't the most optimized or rules proficient. Care to chime in about your experiences? Id love to see what we are missing or if casters once again really have the leg up on martials.

I haven't done much high-level stuff yet, but I'm assuming that raising the dead, flying, and traveling the planes is still restricted to casters. ;)

However, raw combat power seems to be solidly in the martials' favor in 5E (in my experience so far).

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I've heard that a lot of people are taking 1 level in a class that gives them heavy armor proficiency (like Fighter) and then going on to Wizard. It's... desparaging, but that allows them to use heavy armor right from the start.


Lorathorn wrote:
I've heard that a lot of people are taking 1 level in a class that gives them heavy armor proficiency (like Fighter) and then going on to Wizard. It's... desparaging, but that allows them to use heavy armor right from the start.

It's not that big of a deal though - doing so puts your spell progression back an entire level, and then your AC isn't the highest it can be until you can afford plate mail. At level 1, the best you're going to get is chain mail until you can afford more. Going by the DMG, you're not going to get the gold for that until at least level 4 if not longer. Unless your GM is really nice.

If that's the investment you want, I see no issues with that trade.


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Mountain Dwarves get medium armor proficiency as a racial trait, which can combine with Shield (the spell) in an unhittable way for low level PCs against low challenge monsters. I don't think it's a game breaker (past level 4 or so there are much better uses for those spell slots) but a mountain dwarf caster doesn't need to multiclass for better armor.

Edit: That was to Lorathorn, not Bookrat. I'd cry ninja, but the truth is I'm just an unobservant dingus who can't be bothered to read the last post on the thread before responding to the second to last. *sighs in embarrassment*

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Yeah, that sounds reasonable.

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Hitdice wrote:
Mountain Dwarves get medium armor proficiency as a racial trait, which can combine with Shield (the spell) in an unhittable way for low level PCs against low challenge monsters. I don't think it's a game breaker (past level 4 or so there are much better uses for those spell slots) but a mountain dwarf caster doesn't need to multiclass for better armor.

A couple things to remember:

One, shield is a very different spell in 5E than it was in Pathfinder. Congratulations, you spent a slot to block a single attack. That can hardly be counted as "armoring up your casters".

Two, if you're playing that dwarf as a caster, you're starting yourself off with a max of 15 in your casting stat, which is not a trivial cost.


Like I said, not a game breaker. :)

The weird thing about Shield (I felt so much concern about the spell as a DM, which I have since come to terms with at higher levels) is, it's the only flat bonus to AC I've found in 5e, as compared to a recalculation of "your armor class." Spending a reaction is not cheap either, in terms of action economy.


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Yep, shield is pretty sweet, but unless you are intentionally building a melee caster who only really uses spells for defense and mobility (relying on a weapon for offense), you ideally don't want to be wasting spell slots casting shield spells. If you're doing that a lot you may need to rethink your tactics, and try to position yourself better, so you aren't getting attacked so often.

As an example of how the shield spell can contribute to a bit of a balance issue, we had a blade singer in our party, and he rarely used spells for offense; most of his spells were used for things like shield, mirror image, misty step, displacement etc... At 10th level, with his blade singing up and the shield spell up, he had an AC of 27-28, which is very high for a 5e character. A lot of monsters needed a natural 20 to hit him, which was annoying. However, once he burned through his spells and blade singing uses he was a lot more vulnerable. I could also get him with things like breath weapons and spells that didn't rely on AC to do damage. Still, when the rest of the party had ACs between 18-22, it felt somewhat unbalanced to have a character that regularly had an AC 28.


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He's also easy to ignore. Given hes spent his reaction shielding, he cant make opportunity attacks.

So once they miss a couple of times the monsters will probably run past him to the back ranks.


I think PF people sometimes worry about the numbers when they try dnd5. We still do sometimes
It is no where near as tightly strung so just enjoy and don't worry. There is lots of challenge and it's great that monsters offer a threat over a very wide level range.

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I want to rebuild a PF dwarven waraxe-wielding dwarf barbarian 1/magus 7 as a mountain dwarf outlander abjuration wizard with Toughness. At lower levels, I can use my battle axe ("dwarven waraxe") and Strength score, then after level 5, and especially after level 8 once I start boosting Int, I can use Shocking Grasp for melee.

Casting Shield would actually help "renew" my abjuration hit point pool.


Hitdice wrote:

Like I said, not a game breaker. :)

The weird thing about Shield (I felt so much concern about the spell as a DM, which I have since come to terms with at higher levels) is, it's the only flat bonus to AC I've found in 5e, as compared to a recalculation of "your armor class." Spending a reaction is not cheap either, in terms of action economy.

Shield of faith grants +2 bonus to AC to single recipient for 10 minutes but requires Concentration, so it's a single target bonus until the cleric has to cast some other concentration spell.

Ring of protection grants +1 bonus to AC but it occupies one of the wearer's three magic item attunement slots.

You know... Now I wonder why our barbarian/cleric with AC of approximately 17 or 18 in her furry outfit does not use shield of faith more often? (it might have something to do with her rage, though).


A level 5 cantrip with two damage dice vs a level 5 martial's two attacks would on average be in favor of the martial.

First off, yes, the martial is less likely to get both attacks to hit, than the caster is to get its one cantrip to hit, but on the other hand the martial is also less likely to completely whiff all of its attacks. So where the caster deals its "full" damage every second turn, the martial deals "half" damage every turn.

Secondly a cantrip deals only its damage dice, so at level 5 you're at around 2d8 or 2d10 damage, unless you are a draconic sorcerer or a warlock with agonizing blast, or something similar, in which case you get your Ability modifier on that damage.
The martial gets their ability modifier twice: once on each attack. So a two-hand fighter comes at 4d6+6 (average 20) where the warlock rolls 2d10+3 (average 14)

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True. Except for a novaing warlock with hex and agonizing blast: 1d10+1d6+5 + 1d10+1d6+5, but that's a bit of a corner case.


In that case you also need to take into consideration the extra damage a battle master can do with its superiority dice and action surge, or a barbarian with reckless attack, frenzy bonus attack and rage extra damage. Or perhaps a paladin with hunter's mark and smite.


Threeshades wrote:

A level 5 cantrip with two damage dice vs a level 5 martial's two attacks would on average be in favor of the martial.

First off, yes, the martial is less likely to get both attacks to hit, than the caster is to get its one cantrip to hit, but on the other hand the martial is also less likely to completely whiff all of its attacks. So where the caster deals its "full" damage every second turn, the martial deals "half" damage every turn.

Secondly a cantrip deals only its damage dice, so at level 5 you're at around 2d8 or 2d10 damage, unless you are a draconic sorcerer or a warlock with agonizing blast, or something similar, in which case you get your Ability modifier on that damage.
The martial gets their ability modifier twice: once on each attack. So a two-hand fighter comes at 4d6+6 (average 20) where the warlock rolls 2d10+3 (average 14)

The Warlock with Agonizing Blast (according to my reading) will get the stat modifier with each die - as according to the spell writeup, each die is a separate ray.

The whole gimmick with the warlock vs other casters seems to be higher floor, lower ceiling.


I may be remembering eldritch blast wrong, but the point holds true with other casters. Even more so with other casters who dont get the ability bonus at all.


Threeshades wrote:
I may be remembering eldritch blast wrong, but the point holds true with other casters. Even more so with other casters who dont get the ability bonus at all.

It does hold true except for a few corner cases - knowledge domain cleric, evoker wizard, and the dragon sorcerer. The big exception is the warlock, but they don't have anywhere close to the burst damage/crowd control the other casters have (4 spells max in an encounter and a lower max level as well).

Foxit apparently needs an update that I am only discovering now, so I can't say whether or not there is something in Unearthed Arcana that adds to the corner cases.

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