Is it Time to Drop the Fighter?

Over at Micah’s place, I left a comment regarding his thoughts on how D&D Next is handling the fighter so far. And I liked what I wrote so much, I’ve decided to copy it here as well. I might be serious about this too. I’ll have to think on it a bit more.

I think without going to an every class looks and behaves exactly the same as every other class like 4e had, the fighter will always and forever be getting the short end of the stick as long as they keep power scaling the game. The problem is the Fighter is the “core class” that everything is built off of, and the more extra classes and features and powers they add, the further and further behind the fighter falls.

Think of 0e, where as you mention, there was no thief class. You had fighter, wizard and cleric. The fighter does the physical stuff, the wizard does the ranged siege and the cleric did defense / healing. Then they added the thief, and suddenly the fighter does the physical stuff, except the things the thief does. The the barbarian came a long and now he does the hitting things and doing lots of damage thing really well. Then the rogue, who’s claim to fame is dextrous fighting with light weapons. Then the ranger, who takes ranged weapons. Then the monk took unarmed combat. So now we have a fighter who’s no longer the climber, no longer the heavy damage dealer, not a defender, not a ranged weapons guy, not a nimble swashbuckler, and so on and so forth. So now what is the fighter other than a better than the average bear, man at arms?

I didn’t like what 4e did with powers, I think it changed the feel of everything too much, and made all the classes feel pretty much the same, and while it may be a nice system, it didn’t feel like D&D and didn’t have good support for the type of old adventures that define D&D. But clearly I think, going back to the 3e way where you just pile feats and skills onto the fighter isn’t what people want either (just go read through some 4e fan reactions to this playtest, if you can stomach the wailing that is).

Perhaps then the solution is to drop the fighter class entirely. Because lets face it, what the complaints about the fighter being mundane boil down to is that he doesn’t have any cool special things that make all the other classes unique, and how could he, the fighter by definition in the old editions was a catch all for anything that wasn’t a magic user or a holy man, a jack of all trades. But at this point, the fighter catches nothing but flak. So let’s ditch the fighter completely. You want to hit things hard and fast, play a barbarian. You want to buckle some swash, play a rogue. You want to live out your Legolas fan fics, play a ranger. You want to kick butt Jet Li style, hello monk.

Other than being iconic, what does the fighter bring to the table anymore?

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  1. #1 by micahblackburn on May 28, 2012 - 16:47

    Again, thanks for linking me up on your blog! I think you raise a very important issue, and it goes part and parcel with the sticky conundrum of ‘what is a Fighter’? Ask 10 people and you get 10 different answers, really. The class exemplifies too many archetypes to do them well, hence needing a ton of variant classes to better fulfill that niche. That’s bad design work.
    Maybe it is time to kill the Fighter, but assuming it won’t be killed (as it’s basically a sacred Cow) how can it be saved and maintain it’s meaningfulness?

    • #2 by iDungeonCrawl on May 28, 2012 - 19:54

      I don’t know that it’s bad design work. From the original standpoint, it works just fine. The whole idea was you made your fighter into whatever type of hero you wanted from outside the rules system. The problem comes in when they started making more specific fighter classes. Suddenly the generic fighter is, well just that, generic.

      As for saving it without going back to 4e powers system and still keeping big wizard spells and high level play. I’m not sure they can. Ultimately when you think about it, the classic high fantasy wizard can bend the universe itself to his or her will at high levels. When you can bend the universe to your will, what person limited to mere physical restraints can hope to compete. You could drop all the reality bending wizard spells, leaving them with just attack spells, but even then, you have to avoid tactical nuke wizards. You can have spell access for wizards plateau, but that’s essentially bringing back old level limits.

      Honestly the more I think about this, the more that I’m partially convinced this is why basic D&D changed play styles as you got higher level. At a certain point, I think they probably saw the “quadratic wizard” problem, hence the suggestion that your character might consider retiring around 9th level and the game play would change to one of stronghold and resource management.

      Maybe that’s the only real way to fix it, to eliminate high level play, because after a certain point, the D&D system just breaks down. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that your game has an end game, or a max level for characters. Nothing (other than the desire to sell more books with MORE POWAR!) says that the game can’t or shouldn’t cap out at level 10, or 20.

      Edit:

      I said all that, and I did a bit more thinking. Perhaps the way to save the generic fighters is to really push the “improvise” stuff in the new rules. Forget your powers and skills and start thinking about what you want to do, and then give fighters huge bonuses to in combat skill checks. Sure anyone can push the goblin into the gelatinous cube, but only the fighter always has advantage, or a +5 on his STR check when attempting it. Anyone can try to leap over the ogre, but the fighter is the one that’s likely to succeed his DEX check.

      But they would really have to hammer home that 5e wouldn’t be like 4e with its powers lists. Players would have to realize you really can do whatever you want. Then again, to hear some of the 4e fans talk, having to work out with your DM the difficulty for pole vaulting the ogre is akin to chewing glass while gargling acid.

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