Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, June 06, 2017
Overpowered at level 1

I had a discussion yesterday with a player who considered that fighters were overpowered and much stronger than wizards in 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons. He had played other D&D editions and Pathfinder before, and considered that the ability of the fighter to wield two weapons and attack twice already at level 1 without any special feats was way too powerful. And he considered that once the wizard had spent his spell slots, casting his cantrips was boring.

I found that this was a rather peculiar view. I know a lot of people who much prefer a fighter to wield a greatsword dealing 2d6 + Strength bonus of damage rather than two weapons, one of which deals 1d6 + Dexterity bonus, the other just 1d6. Obviously in the end both deal the same damage, so it is just a matter of preference whether you like to have two chances to land at least one blow, or whether you'd rather have just one chance to land a twice as big blow. Even if you consider the respective bonuses from fighting styles, I had never considered one version overpowered compared to the other.

Comparing the fighter to the wizard at level 1, the 1d10 damage with no bonus (average 5.5) that the wizard can deal with a cantrip looks weak compared to the 2d6 + bonus (average 10, even before taking into account the fighting style) that the fighter deals with his attacks, two-handed or dual-wielding. And as I talked about in an earlier post, if the adventuring day has the 6 to 8 encounters that the Dungeon Master's Guide proposes, the 2 or 3 spells that a spellcaster can do at level 1 don't really compensate for the weak cantrips. Even if you deal something like 3d8 or 4d6 like some 1st-level spells do, doing this 2 or 3 times doesn't bring up your average by enough to make your spellcaster deal overall more damage than the basic fighter if there are something like 20 combat rounds in a day.

However that discussion is only valid at level 1. 5th edition D&D has 20 levels. And already at level 10 that wizard is going to have 15 spell slots, plus the ability to recover 5 spell slot levels in a day. And the adventuring day hasn't become any longer, so he can pretty much cast a spell every round of the day. The first level spells already deal more damage than a fighter attack, and at level 10 the wizard has access to much more damaging spells like Fireball, Ice Storm, or Cone of Cold. Meanwhile the fighter just gains one more main hand attack (at which point two-handed is definitively better than dual wielding), and still isn't hitting much harder than at level 1 (his bonus probably went up from +3 to +5 through stat increases). So at level 10+, the wizard definitively deals more damage per day than the fighter.

But mathematics aside, the main advantage of a spellcaster over a melee attacker is that attacking with a spell gives you way more different options. Regardless how many attacks the fighter has per round, in the end it is always just the same attack and damage roll. Even if you only consider damage dealing, the wizard gets a lot more variety, from the magic missile that doesn't require any roll to deal damage, to fireball spells that incinerate a large area. And in addition he has utility spells that allow him to charm people, turn invisible, fly, summon monsters, or build magical walls.

I would say that if a fighter is "overpowered" at level 1, he probably deserves it, and should enjoy it while it lasts.


Given that Wizards in 3.x were frequently overpowered by the time a party got into the mid-teens, I consider this "adjustment".

One thing I liked about DnD basic compared to later editions is that at higher levels fighters do vastly more damage then at low levels. Between weapon mastery (which increases the base damage dice of weapons and grants other random bonuses depending on the weapon type) and the ability to add their entire strength score to damage rolls (+ strength bonus, plus weapon magic bonus), a high level fighter can very reliably pump out 100+ points of damage a round that can't be resisted (there is next to nothing in game a fighter will miss save on a natural 1). On top of that fighters have pretty absurd defenses at high levels.

They certainly aren't as versatile as a spellcaster (e.g., no summoning castles out of thin air or raising armies of the dead), but hard to argue that fighters aren't also at least somewhat OP. They toned fighters down quite a bit from Ad&D on, likely to the relief of most DMs.
It should at least be mentioned that fighters have MUCH more HP than wizards, especially at higher levels. When we talk about players getting one-shotted by a lucky roll, we're talking about the wizard, not the fighter.

If you were trying to build an "optimal" party for combat with no role playing considerations, would you really take all squishy casters?
@ Samus:
I mean, the main viability of the warrior in 5e endgame is crowd control through polearm mastery and marking mechanics. A wizard can do this too though, by picking the correct spells.

It is not that non wizards have no function in D&D, it is that wizards can pretty much do everything equally good, or almost as good as the other class, and on top of that do better DPS. And this worsens the higher the level.

So to answer your question: Low level, probably not, as wizards do not have the sustain and survivability to live. Once you reach 7-8 or up, a cleric/fighter for some marking and or healing + the rest wizards is probably your best bet.

When you were having this conversation with this individual, did the topic of resting ever come up? From reading the 5E PHB, it seems as if the DM has more control over how one class performs versus another, especially in the case of the Wizard, by how often the DM allows rests, and it seems this becomes more of an issue as the PC's increases in levels.
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