Thursday, June 9, 2016

5e D&D tweaks - core character classes balance

Overall, all classes in 5e are very well made and balanced. The new skill system, the varied paths a player can choose, the increase of some classes hit die, like the arcane spellcasters going from a d4 to a d6 and the rogue going from a d6 to a d8 - all of that contributed to make the game interesting and balanced. 

However, a few character options seemed a little off to me, so today I will present some of the tweaks I use for them.

Barbarian: No great balance needed. However, I'd like to point out that the Bear totem's first power - giving resistance to all damage except psychic while raging - seems a little overpowered to me. Maybe it should be just elemental damage (such as fire, cold and lightning). However, I don't think it's such a big deal.

Cleric: The "Channel Divinity" option is kind of clunky to me, but interesting. My only problem with the cleric lies with the domain of life sub-class. I find its many healing options extremely powerful, specially regarding "Supreme Healing". I've been thinking about denying access to this class. Or at least change "Supreme healing". Instead of using the highest number possible for each die, just increase the die size. So, a d8 heal would became a d10 heal.

Fighter: A very good class, but I find it kind of scary that the fighter can dish out, in higher levels, as much damage (and, under special circumstances, even more damage) than a Meteor Swarm from a wizard.

For example, let's have a 20th level fighter using a d12 damage weapon. With strength 20, a +3 weapon and using its action surge to attack 8 times in a turn, the fighter can dish out 8d12+64 damage, averaging 116 damage that cannot be halved by a saving throw (unlike a wizard's spell).

Although the fighter would have to hit all attacks to cause such massive damage, it is not a very hard task considering buffs from party members (such as paladins, bards and a multitude of spells, magic items and use of inspiration and advantage). Also, these buffs could even increase their damage: a hasted fighter can even make one extra hit roll. Using good magic items and buffs, a 20th fighter could easily deal 165 damage against a creature in a single turn.

What I propose for the fighter is limiting its damage output at higher levels by limiting its maximum attacks. Basically, disconsider the 20th level 4th attack. Also, the extra attack at level 11 would need a bonus action to activate (similar to the monk class bonus attack). Besides that, the Battle Master archetype does not add superiority dice to damage. Instead, it is added to attack rolls.

Edit: If the fighter is dual wiealding, the extra 3rd attack is cumulative with the bonus attack from the secondary weapon.

Ranger: As always, one of my favorite classes. However, I felt that a few of its core options were weak, the same with its archetype "Beast Master".

In regards to Natural Explorer, I also like to give advantage to survival tests within the chosen favored terrain type. And about the Favored Enemy, the advantage bonus goes not only for Survival checks, but also for attack rolls. So, if your favorite enemy are goblins, roll 2d20 and keep the best roll,

Now, talking about the Beast Master. The animal companion is so weak that it becomes kind of useless. At lvl 11, your companion may have around 44 hp and attack twice if you lose your action to give it an order. At the same time, a 11th lvl wizard's can conjure an earth elemental with 126 hp that attack twice on its own without a need for the wizard to skip its action!

Out of all sub-classes, the Beast Master is the one that I truly think needed an overhaul, and it is very easy to make it work. Just allow the animal companion to have a separate action, separate from the ranger's. Also, I give the companion HP = Ranger lvl x6.

Warlock: For me, warlock is the trickiest and most complex classes, if not for its many different and specific mechanics (spells, pact boons, invocations). Overall, I find it a very curious class and have just a few changes to it, both being related to its Pact Boons at 3rd level.

The Pact of the Chain suffers the same problem that the Beast Master does: a weak creature that adds very little to the group. My change to it is to consider the Pact of the Chain the access to a special summoning spell. By doing a ritual summoning (similar to the ritual summoning of Find Familiar), you may conjure a creature of CR = 1/4 of your level (rounded down). So, at level 3 when you receive this power, you may summon a CR 1/2 creature. At level 12, you could summon a CR 3 creature. This works like any "conjure" spell, with the extra effects that: 1) you don't need to concentrate on the spell after you finish the ritual; 2) you have all the benefits of a familiar, like being able to communicate telepathically with the creature in 100 ft; 3) the creature will never turn against you, unless magically induced.4) Finally, like any conjured creature, you may give orders to it without skiping your action of the turn.

The second pact boon that needed a tweak for me was the Pact of the Blade. Invoking a magic weapon out of thin air is cool, but falls short in comparison with other pact boons, specially the Pact of the Tome. So, I gave some extra bonuses for the blade. First, you may change and manipulate the form of your weapon, so you can change its  statistics (damage and descriptor). It can be a heavy two handed weapon, a versatile one handed weapon, a light weapon etc. - as long as it is a melee weapon. It takes an entire action to change its form. Second, you may use Charisma instead of Dexterity or Strength for attacking with it and bonus damage. Third, when holding your weapon, it counts as magical focus for your spells. Just to note, if you have the "Lifedrinker" eldritch invocation, both extra damages are cumulative.

The third pact boon, the Pact of the Tome, is already good enough and needs no change in my opinion.

The problem for me is that the Wizard seems like a weaker sorcerer. Even if you consider its "Arcane Recovery", allowing him to regain some spell slots with a short rest once, and the wizard's greater access to diferent spells, I believe it lacks some 'oomph'. So, what I like to do is give wizards some access to meta-magic. They have half the sorcery points that sorcerers have (so, just 1 each 2 levels), gaining one metamagic at lvl 3 and another at lvl 10. Also, they may exchange sorcery points for spell slots just like a sorcerer.

Final thoughts

Overall, many of those little changes and house rules are still open in my mind. I have been trying them with my groups, but I'm yet to finish a 5e campaign. The only changes I'm really certain with are the ones with the ranger's Beast Master, the Warlock's pact boons and the wizard's metamagics. The other changes are yet open for change if need be. And what did you folks think about my changes?

Until next time,


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