Author Topic: Why Fighters Suck Redux.  (Read 39753 times)

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Gods_Trick

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Why Fighters Suck Redux.
« on: February 09, 2011, 07:48:26 AM »

  So why do Fighters, the red headed stepchild postermodel of meleers, suck? The answer thats prevailing wisdom and accumulated playtesting is summed down to lack of options.

  We're not tryos here, we know the deal. Casters do it better. To hit, BAB, damage, AC, saves, stealth: casters do it better, despite it being the meleer's primary function. And they do more. SoDs, scrying, teleportation, BFC, miss chance: Fighter types barely touch these caster dominated spheres, and have to devote considerable resources even to play.

  There are a lot of people on this board who still play melee types, though they wisely avoid Fighters and use Lion Totem chargers and Bo9S. But they'd play Fighters, if, they could excel at the meleer's primary function.

  Melee in its HP-reduction, thew rippling, spirit that surpasses the flesh, manly-as-all-hells glory is as strong as ever; despite the mechanics to execute said glory is crippled. The archetype is as old if not older than the magic user, a lot more prevalent in literature and deserves more than Bo9S as they only example.

  D&D any-version is a combat sim. What casters do outside combat is fantastic, and why I personally love casters: the ability to change the world. However thats often so TO that its under emphasized in real games.

  Fighters don't need to keep up with all the options of Wizards, they need to be better at HP-reduction combat (which involves to hit, BAB, damage, AC, saves, stealth) than the wizard. Measurably better now that we have a practical standard of whats effective intra-party.

  Goal statement of an effective meleer: Meleers needs to be a limited BCF platform that has the capacity to threaten a wide radius. A Fighter that performs better than the standard caster in HPr without using feats. Feats should be icng that individualises your cake, not a tax to be barely effective.

Gods_Trick

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Re: Why Fighters Suck Redux.
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2011, 08:24:17 AM »

  I'm looking at the standard tactical advise given to Druid, Cleric and Wizard players per level to establish baseline. If there are existing threads for it, please post them here. This way we can determine a numerical average of HPr, which will be the goal to shoot for and exceed.

RobbyPants

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Re: Why Fighters Suck Redux.
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2011, 02:53:12 PM »
I agree with most of what you said, but in addition, I think fighters need to be able to play in other mini-games outside of the combat game.  Sure, combat is the bulk of D&D, but there are lots of other things to do.

I'd say, at a minimum, make skills better.  Let them do more, and once you have enough ranks, let them do fantastic things.  Then, give fighters a more broad list of skills and give them 6 skill points per level, or so.
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Sunic_Flames

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Re: Why Fighters Suck Redux.
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2011, 03:09:25 PM »
The problem isn't that casters do it better. They do of course, but that just makes them CAP bait. The problem is that they don't do it well enough. They try to fight beatstick monster, they get out beatsticked and beat down. If they fight anything else, it's far worse.

Minimum baseline of competence for a beatstick: One round an average, level appropriate enemy. Optimization by the numbers tells you how many HP they have. Now, add 20% to this number to account for things like enemies actually using their treasure, or their spells, or their abilities, or you rolling a 1, or enemies having a bit higher than average HP, none of which are accounted for by the base, average stats.

Remember, HP is binary. Either you have it, or you don't. If you take an enemy to 5 HP, and it then annihilates you (which being at 5 HP does not hinder it on) you fail. Between that, and the Rocket Tag nature of D&D, and Iterative Probability if you're fucking around with HP damage at all, take all of it, or don't even waste your time and mine trying.
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Gods_Trick

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Re: Why Fighters Suck Redux.
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2011, 04:12:44 AM »
The problem isn't that casters do it better. They do of course, but that just makes them CAP bait. The problem is that they don't do it well enough. They try to fight beatstick monster, they get out beatsticked and beat down. If they fight anything else, it's far worse.

Minimum baseline of competence for a beatstick: One round an average, level appropriate enemy. Optimization by the numbers tells you how many HP they have. Now, add 20% to this number to account for things like enemies actually using their treasure, or their spells, or their abilities, or you rolling a 1, or enemies having a bit higher than average HP, none of which are accounted for by the base, average stats.

Remember, HP is binary. Either you have it, or you don't. If you take an enemy to 5 HP, and it then annihilates you (which being at 5 HP does not hinder it on) you fail. Between that, and the Rocket Tag nature of D&D, and Iterative Probability if you're fucking around with HP damage at all, take all of it, or don't even waste your time and mine trying.

HP being binary is the biggest problem. Doesn't matter if you do 10'000 damage, if the monsters still kicking, your meleer or worse yet, whole party is at risk.

Ideally, the proposed rebuild should be modular, without recommending gamewide changes like a wound or vitality track. I'm still pondering. The problem has to resolved to relavize (made up word, but fun) meleers in combat. The Knights Challenge is weaksause, but possibly a more wholistic form thats not been beaten with the reality stick.

Robby, I agree with you. In my games I personally have a list of spells that the skills emulate at a certain DC. Invisibilty as an extraordinary effect? Beat DC 40 with your move silently and hide skills.

Still adding and refining the list of effects. Too powerful and ... naah, casters will still rule, just less absolutely. Too weak hasn't come up yet since any emulated spell makes the skills far more useful than they are presently. Makes skill monkeys and even melee types much more useful, and more importantly, fun. Thats a game system change though and not relevant to the rebuilt Fighter.

That said .... what is the Fighter? Its not necessarily a stupid class, but the jury is out on whether the archetype is skillful or not. My favourite Fighters in fantasy have been, but many classics others have not.

That sparks an idea for an easy fix though. Fighters get a feat called, uhh ... [placeholder] Kills with Skills. The feat adds (4 + int bonus + racial bonus) to the ranks you have available. You can take it multiple times, but there'll be caveats for retraining, or floating feats or other shennanigans.


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Re: Why Fighters Suck Redux.
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2011, 04:55:59 AM »
The problems with fighters:
-Feats are a poor substitute for actual class features
-Way too many dead levels
-Hard to be effective without good optimization skill and various ACFs

Warblades, crusaders, hexblades, barbarians, druids, clerics, rangers, and duskblades do a better job of what the fighter is supposed to do.

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Re: Why Fighters Suck Redux.
« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2011, 05:19:59 AM »
Overhauling feats goes a long way to helping fighters and improving the game in general. Other problems with the class are often shared by other melee classes, but fixing feats helps a lot.
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Re: Why Fighters Suck Redux.
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2011, 10:55:49 AM »
Quote
Still adding and refining the list of effects. Too powerful and ... naah, casters will still rule, just less absolutely. Too weak hasn't come up yet since any emulated spell makes the skills far more useful than they are presently. Makes skill monkeys and even melee types much more useful, and more importantly, fun. Thats a game system change though and not relevant to the rebuilt Fighter.
Well too strong is the same issue as magic being too strong. If you can no longer effectively challenge players in a certain domain, theres a problem.

As for the Fighter in particular, I'd look at the staples in the areas they are supposed to cover.
Movement - Fighters need to move, especially melee types. Whether realistic or fictional, they are supposed to be athletic and highly mobile compared to others. Platemail is slow, but only relative to leather clad archers and mounted warriors in general. The only type of Fighter that in a realistic environment would be genuinely slow in action would be pikemen footsoldiers and thats because they are supposed to stay there.
In game, they're at a profound disadvantage. Meleers MUST move to get into position, and being slow slays them at their own game. They cannot move and deliver their expected performance(ToB helps here with standard action stuff, as does ubercharging). Add to the fact that many monsters can run circles around even a 30ft move(much less the 20ft that heavier armors would bestow) and that every outsider that matters can teleport.
At 1-5, their armor makes them slower than the wizard, before any magic comes into play, unless they had a mount. In addition, TWFers learn that they don't get to move and use their second attack unless they're mounted. They might be passable at feats of athletics like climb, jump or swim, if they had the skill points to spare, but Spider Climb, Jump and water breathing magic are going to blow them clean out of the water.
At level 6-10, it gets worse, full attacks have just come online and you can't move and use them without shenanigans(I know Pounce is practically a staple, but by the core book its not exactly available).  Lose a third of your offense whenever you move, even as flight and short teleports just joined the table. Mounts are also expiring, they die fast for any you can buy, whereas the Ranger at least gets a useful ride.
By the teen levels, their maneuverability is completely obsolete, and legit mounts have completely fallen off the table(of course, theres Warbeasts). Planar travel they can't do. Allocating magical wealth to dealing with these is difficult, what with the expensive basic melee equipment and the many holes they're filling.

So to fix maneuverability, they need
1 - To be able to do their thing while moving. Archery Fighters have manyshot, mounted fighters need to be able to either get better mounts systematically or else buff their mounts to useful levels just by sitting on top(I favor this one, e.g. by giving their mount some Familiar benefits(specifically, sharing health, BAB and Fighter feats while the Fighter is on top), TWF fighters in particular and melee fighters in general need to get rid of that full attack business(maybe a full attack just adds one more attack, or maybe it does away with iterative penalties, not sure how sane the latter is) for something they can do as a standard action(i.e. the regular full attack).

2 - Super Movement, for lack of a better word. Swim speed(with enhanced lung capacity for free), Climb speed, general speed boosts as they level. Later on air walk and burrowing, moving onto Plane Shift eventually. Move action short range teleportation may be in order as well.

Direct Contest Fail - Size is the big offender here. Anything besides hit target with weapon requires a check, which is often modified and limited by size. The bonuses from size easily overwhelm anyone who hadn't whored that one move out to the exception of anything else. The bonuses from monstrous strength make it worse(especially for checks unmodified by BAB). To add insult to injury, casters can access, or give access to these bonuses via polymorph.
Fixing this can take several ways.
If you're doing a basic revamp of combat mechanics(after all, hell, the grapple rules are a clusterfuck, might as well), making the checks modifed by BAB+Stat, reducing the scale of the size modifiers(if Large gave +1, Huge gave +2, Gargantuan +4 etc), makes the numbers more reachable. Making certain maneuvers easier to smaller creatures may help. Also, the absolutes(e.g. the maximum size you can grapple) need to be purged. And of course things like Freedom of Movement giving total immunity to grappling as well.
Alternatively, improve the Fighter by granting virtual size categories for the purpose of combat maneuvers.

Defense means nothing - AC and hp just won't cut it at higher levels. They'd hit all the time and for more damage than your hp within one or two full attacks. More a problem with melee in general, but if you can get hold of effective DR and energy resistance without resorting to magic, that'd be nice.

Variety of offense - Combat maneuvers are horribly limited. You can disarm, trip, move an opponent a pathetic distance, and thats about all the practical ones. Throw in some decent status effects to tag onto attacks, ranged or otherwise. Battlefield control can be created with stunts that alter common battlefield aspects, like hitting the ground/wall to both create difficult terrain and an obstacle.
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Runestar

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Re: Why Fighters Suck Redux.
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2011, 01:58:21 PM »
Quote
The problems with fighters:
-Feats are a poor substitute for actual class features

I agree with this. PHB2 tries to fix this (with some degree of success, IMO), but in general, I feel there are just not enough higher lv feats for non-casters to take.

I mean, even weapon supremacy. While it does arguably make for a cool and flavourful capstone for a fighter, I don't see how the ability to take 10 on an attack can ever compete with stopping time or creating your own plane.  :eh
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Gods_Trick

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Re: Why Fighters Suck Redux.
« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2011, 02:39:11 PM »

I mean, even weapon supremacy. While it does arguably make for a cool and flavourful capstone for a fighter, I don't see how the ability to take 10 on an attack can ever compete with stopping time or creating your own plane.  :eh

You take it with the fighter-feats variant monk, who don't need to meet its prerequisites  :smirk

I agree with the points on feats, but rebuilding lame duck feats is a lot like rewriting omg broken spells; a LOT of work  :bigeye But I do have a quick and dirty fix in mind.

Veekie, I'm with you. In fact mobility is the basis of the rebuild I have in mind. The problem is the language; summing it up in such away that makes it easy to progress with PrCs, and yet not appear like a frontloaded Fighter Mark X.


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Re: Why Fighters Suck Redux.
« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2011, 02:42:15 PM »
My own personal take on why fighters suck(most of it is repeating/elaborating on what others have said):

-Gaining feats shouldn't replace class features, for a couple of reasons: there aren't long enough feat chains out there that could not be taken at useful levels by classes without bonus feats; a human by level 9 has 5 feats(7 with flaws) that's usually more than enough for almost everything you'd like to do. So having more feats is not a significant enough advantage.In addition, most feat chains (like ubercharging, or lockdown for example) work better on classes with actual unique class features that complement them (rage&pounce for ubercharging, Thicket of Blades for lockdown, you get the idea).

-Lack of flexibility: this is not a fighter only problem, but rather a problem with many other classes that are forced to choose their 'tricks' at character creation and can do nothing to change them.  If you build an Archer fighter, it means you're stuck to being an archer for the rest of your life. Whenever a situation arises when archery is not feasible, there is nothing you can do about it. Most other classes that require the player to make permanent build choices, offer alternatives for flexibility, at least temporarily. A blaster sorcerer can buy a scroll of charm person when a more diplomatic approach is required, but an archer fighter can't buy a 'scroll' of Shock Trooper when melee combat is needed.

- Of course, there is also the problem that, while a fighter (and melee classes in general) scale linearly, casters scale exponentially, but that's a deeper and more general problem. Let's face it, the only way to really be on par with spellcasters is cast spells yourself. Anything else will fall behind.

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Re: Why Fighters Suck Redux.
« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2011, 02:43:46 PM »
I mean, even weapon supremacy. While it does arguably make for a cool and flavourful capstone for a fighter, I don't see how the ability to take 10 on an attack can ever compete with stopping time or creating your own plane.  :eh

Weapon Supremacy SUCKS. It's a perfect example of why most feats suck.

It requires FIVE feats and a MINIMUM of 18 levels to get, its most useful ability is usable only once per round AND IT'S NOT THAT USEFUL (Aura of Perfect Order stance completely trumps Weapon Supremacy's "take 10", it gets to take an 11 instead of a 10 and it gets to do it 7 levels earlier).

It's other abilities include:

+4 to resist being disarmed, which is better than DOUBLED by a non-magic item that costs 8 GOLD available at level 1. You can benefit from both, but how awful does it feel to get a piddly +4 at level 18?

You can use your weapon to make a full-attack in grapple, and just generally don't have any penalties with it in grapple. This WOULD be really good if your caster buddy in the party wasn't such a PRICK, because if you're level 18 worrying about grapple, the casters you've met are pricks. Freedom of Movement is a 4th level spell, and your job is to wade into melee. Someone wants you dead if you need to worry about grapple at level 18.

When you take a full attack action, you can apply a +5 to any attack after your first. Why do they attach such shitty conditions? First off, you have a hard time full attacking anyway because you have to get to your target first. Second, the bonus only applies to one iterative attack, when it should apply to all of them.

You gain +1 bonus to AC. Someone should get you a towel.


Fix for the feat? Well just looking at what it offers, what should we do to make its relatively lousy bonuses worthwhile at level 18? (Since they're not)

+20 to resist disarm. Fuck you if you want to disarm a level 18 fighter. YOU need the towel. This puts you +4 ahead of the size bonus for a Colossal creature. You're still probably fucked since they tend to have double your strength, but at least the size part of the equation isn't the part that screws you. Make it +20 to resist sunder while you're at it. Remember the Titans? Fuck the Titans.

You gain Improved Grab with your melee weapon. That's right, if you want to grapple someone you get to do it as a free action any time you hit with your chosen weapon, and you neither provoke an AoO nor can they immediately react to disarm you if you fail. This is on top of what the feat already grants. Grapple still shouldn't be an issue for you at level 18, but even if you got your caster buddies to give you freedom of movement that doesn't mean every enemy you meet has it, which means the ability to grapple the enemy is still occasionally useful (Very rare, but that's what happens when you improve the precedent rather than ignore it)

You gain a +5 bonus on all attacks with your chosen weapon, which you can trade for AC any time you want. I'm not going to try and make the wording perfect, but basically you have +5 floating attack and AC, so you can gain +3 to attack and +2 to AC one round if you want. That should be fine really. It gets you +5 on your primary and all your iteratives, and the more obscene you can make your attack bonus for free the more you can pump your damage.

You can always take a 10 making attacks with your chosen weapon (Or perhaps we should go ahead and make it an 11, but this works more with the precedent of the time).

The ability mod which adds damage to your weapon goes up a step. So if you wield your weapon two-handed then you add double your strength bonus instead of just 1.5, if you wield it one-handed you add 1.5 your strength bonus, and if you wield it off-handed you apply your full strength bonus. I was tempted to just double the bonus (So two-handed gets 3x str, one-handed gets 2x, and off-hand get 1x) but there's no precedent for it that I know of, and this is just a hypothetical house rule anyway.

Your Power Attack damage does something similar, but I'm not going to bother to work it out now.


The point is that the feat, which requires five feats, 18 fighter levels or 20 Warblade levels, just isn't good enough at ALL. It's called "Weapon Supremacy" but it's embarrassingly far from supreme.

Feats need to be SO MUCH BETTER than they are; I've never seen anyone go far enough. The Tome series makes them scale, but I don't remember it offering high-level abilities much.

Take a hint from the best feat mechanics out there and apply them to every feat that doesn't have them. Scale them, give them synergy (Like heritage feats and Font of Inspiration, you're rewarded for focusing), and make higher-level feats grant higher-level powers. Pick an ability score, and then let people use feats to grab certain spells and powers as spell-like abilities with feats. They pick the ability score when they take the feat, their caster level is their character level, and they can use it a number of times per encounter/per day/per whatever as their ability mod.

Add more level-based prerequisites (So you don't have the problem that the monsters can take all the same shit you can) and fewer feat taxes. Make sure everything the feat requires makes sense for the feat (Don't require 10 ranks in Concentration for a feat that doesn't use Concentration). That way you keep the power level-appropriate but allow it to be LEVEL APPROPRIATE.

« Last Edit: February 10, 2011, 03:56:38 PM by Bloody Initiate »
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zugschef

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Re: Why Fighters Suck Redux.
« Reply #12 on: February 10, 2011, 03:06:13 PM »
the most easy fix for this: just make weapon focus scale and weapon supremacy a part of it, earlier than 18th level.

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Re: Why Fighters Suck Redux.
« Reply #13 on: February 10, 2011, 03:12:25 PM »
Robby, I agree with you. In my games I personally have a list of spells that the skills emulate at a certain DC. Invisibilty as an extraordinary effect? Beat DC 40 with your move silently and hide skills.

Still adding and refining the list of effects. Too powerful and ... naah, casters will still rule, just less absolutely. Too weak hasn't come up yet since any emulated spell makes the skills far more useful than they are presently. Makes skill monkeys and even melee types much more useful, and more importantly, fun. Thats a game system change though and not relevant to the rebuilt Fighter.
Personally, I recommend ranks instead of DCs for hitting special abilities because ranks are a lot easier to predict, unless you go through and plug all the holes in the game that let you get insanely high skill checks.  You could still used opposed rolls for certain things, but skill ranks is probably a good way to figure out when you can do something.  So (just making this up as I go), you might get something like:

Hide:
9 Ranks: You gain Hide in Plain Sight.
14 Ranks: As a swift action, you may become invisible for one round, if you succeed on a Hide check (opposed by Spot).

Climb:
9 Ranks: You can climb any surface with a Climb DC of 20 or less at your base land speed with no penalties and no check necessary.  You may hang on to such surfaces with one hand.
14 Ranks: You can climb any surface with a Climb DC of 30 or less at your base land speed with no penalties and no check necessary.  You may hang on to such surfaces with one hand.  You may climb perfectly smooth, vertical surfaces with a base DC of 35.

(Possibly throw in the effects of the Up the Walls feat in there at some point for free, requiring no psionic focus).

Jump:
9 Ranks: You may take 10 on Jump checks, even when distracted.  Treat all distance-based DCs as one half their value for determining how far you jump.
14 Ranks: As a move action, you may fly a distance of up to your base land speed, with average maneuverability.  You may fly a distance of up to double your base land speed when charging.  You may fly a distance up to three times your base land speed as a full round action.  You must start this movement from a surface that can support your weight.


These could be tweaked considerably, but I'm just trying to make a point of what I'm getting at.  One of the fighter's key concerns is getting where he needs to be.  If you fix that, you help alleviate his reliance on his caster buddies.


That said .... what is the Fighter? Its not necessarily a stupid class, but the jury is out on whether the archetype is skillful or not. My favourite Fighters in fantasy have been, but many classics others have not.
Fighters can easily be split into other classes by niche, or you can try to make a catch-all class like 3E did.  If you make feats better, you can use that to make fighters better.  That was part of the Tome approach, and the final product is often complained about as being too wizard-like.
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Slz the Resolute

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Re: Why Fighters Suck Redux.
« Reply #14 on: February 10, 2011, 09:13:16 PM »
My first character was a fighter, in 3.5. I was destroying the combat encounters, to a certain point, mostly because my friends were a wizard, a druid, and a rogue/dervish... I was usually buffed to hell, but then the wizard with one level dip in fighter(for the weapon proficiencies) decided that he no longer needed to buff me.
 
Finally after reaching lvl 15+ I felt worthless, frustrated with my character I rerolled. I now only use fighters for 1-2 level dips for the BAB and a couple of feats.

I believe that in order to make fighters better you need an incentive to keep advancing in the fighter class. Getting more feats does not cut it. From what I've read on this thread, it needs to do with movement enhancement or a maybe a spell-like ability?
 
Alternatively, improve the Fighter by granting virtual size categories for the purpose of combat maneuvers.

1-5 fighter is considered medium, 6-10 large, ect ect?

What about dmg reduction, except better than the Barbarians...



« Last Edit: February 10, 2011, 09:17:01 PM by Slz the Resolute »

Bloody Initiate

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Re: Why Fighters Suck Redux.
« Reply #15 on: February 10, 2011, 09:24:43 PM »
Getting more feats does not cut it. From what I've read on this thread, it needs to do with movement enhancement or a maybe a spell-like ability?

Movement options is just something WotC took along time to figure out melee needed. You can see their attempts to remedy the problem through out the publications. Slowly but surely someone figured it out.

It's a VERY common mistake in RPGs, because they liked the full plate armor that medieval knights wore but they forget that knights rode horseys into battle to make up for their lowered movement. Actually they don't forget, they just don't like programming mounted combat into the game.

It's also a pretty common failure of people who want to make melee look cool but forget that you have to keep your target within reach. In Halo 3 they introduced the gravity hammer, a melee weapon that knocks foes back. The problem is that knocking people back looks really cool but when everyone is carrying guns it's just a good way to keep them out of your reach and get yourself killed.

So basically the things that make melee look really cool often don't do anything to help melee function.
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Slz the Resolute

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Re: Why Fighters Suck Redux.
« Reply #16 on: February 10, 2011, 09:50:12 PM »
I am musing an idea about using jump skill in combat to different squares around the intended target, something on the lines of the feat Leap Attack but more of a skill trick for melee characters. Kinda makes me wish they created skill tricks in Complete Warrior like they did in Complete Scoundrel.

Also I like some of the things they did in Neverwinter Nights series for melee characters. Called shot arm/leg, parry ect.

Bloody Initiate

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Re: Why Fighters Suck Redux.
« Reply #17 on: February 10, 2011, 09:52:02 PM »
Tumble is actually a pretty good skill.

It's also not a class skill for Fighters or most melee classes.
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Slz the Resolute

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Re: Why Fighters Suck Redux.
« Reply #18 on: February 10, 2011, 09:56:23 PM »
I guess they thought tumbling in heavy armor was taboo?

RobbyPants

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Re: Why Fighters Suck Redux.
« Reply #19 on: February 10, 2011, 09:57:20 PM »
I believe that in order to make fighters better you need an incentive to keep advancing in the fighter class. Getting more feats does not cut it. From what I've read on this thread, it needs to do with movement enhancement or a maybe a spell-like ability?
One way is to use this fighter and these feats.  You get some class features and your feats actually matter.


Movement options is just something WotC took along time to figure out melee needed. You can see their attempts to remedy the problem through out the publications. Slowly but surely someone figured it out.
A lot of this problem comes from using a grid with 5-foot squares.  If you're fine with making movement more abstract, it's not such an issue.  As soon as you decide that you want your fighters to be all mundane and you want to track how fast they move in six-second increments, you run into a problem.  Especially when your buddies are flying wizards and you're fighting things that fly/teleport.
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