Before we get to the Fighter, I had a couple people comment on how I “only criticized the Cleric design goals”. I guess what they wanted was for me to come up with my own version to sit alongside the Wizards list. Well, challenge accepted!
1. A Cleric is an agent of the divine.
A Cleric promotes the philosophy and agenda of the deity they worship. This does not make them mindless automatons. They don’t have to always do what they believe their god wants, but they should usually have the same perspective and priorities. In return for their service, the gods grant them powers. As such, the common folk tend to have strong feelings about Clerics. A Cleric that helps – or is perceived as helping – usually gains a great deal of respect and trust. People will turn to the Cleric, looking for the god’s favor or forgiveness. Evil Clerics, by contrast, are almost universally hated.
2. A Cleric uses a mix of melee and divine spells.
I would just use their point #4 for this. It sets them apart from the probable themes for the Priest and the Paladin.
3. A Cleric generally supports the party.
Support (*****): This is a Cleric’s wheelhouse. The most common form of support is, of course, healing, but Clerics also remove curses and empower their allies.
Defense (***): Clerics generally wear medium or heavy armor and a shield. They tend to have a strong will.
Control (**): Cleric spells that control are generally restricted to affecting creatures that are hated by the Cleric’s patron (e.g. demons, undead) and to preventing the target from attacking or approaching.
Damage (**):As mentioned above, Clerics tend to use melee weapons for their everyday damage and save their spells for other purposes. Their damaging spells generally reflect their patron’s wrath.
Utility (*): Cleric powers do not generally add utility.
4. Divine magic is a reflection of the Cleric’s patron.
A god of storms and violence will grant different powers than a trickster deity or the avatar of death.
5. Clerics are present in the world.
As people of faith, Clerics tend to do things rather than wait for them to happen. They see a need and they fill it. They see a problem and they solve it.
The article can be found here. I found it just as disappointing, if not more so, than the Cleric article.
1. The Fighter Is the Best at . . . Fighting!
This might sound like an obvious point, but the fighter should be the best character in a fight. Other classes might have nifty tricks, powerful spells, and other abilities, but when it’s time to put down a monster without dying in the process, the fighter should be our best class. A magic sword might make you better in a fight, but a fighter of the same level is still strictly better. Perhaps a spell such as haste lets you attack more often, but the fighter is still either making more attacks or his or her attacks are more accurate or powerful.
Reading this in the context of the “three pillars” theory makes me cringe, because it seems to be saying that Fighters are all combat and very little social or exploration. It’s also very muddled when you consider other classes. If the fighter is always going to hit more often and do more damage than a Rogue or Ranger, why bother with those classes? If that isn’t true, then what does this point even mean?
2. The Fighter Draws on Training and Experience, not Magic
Fighters master mundane tactics and weapon skills. They don’t need spells or some sort of external source of magical power to succeed. Fighters do stuff that is within the limits of mundane mortals. They don’t reverse gravity or shoot beams of energy.
Oh, Monte, you might be gone, but your worst ideas remain. There’s nothing that says that Fighters have to be less fantastic in epic play than other classes.
3. The Fighter Exists in a World of Myth, Fantasy, and Legend
Keeping in mind the point above, we also have to remember that while the fighter draws on mundane talent, we’re talking about mundane within the context of a mythical, fantasy setting. Beowulf slew Grendel by tearing his arm off. He later killed a dragon almost singlehandedly. Roland slew or gravely injured four hundred Saracens in a single battle. In the world of D&D, a skilled fighter is a one-person army. You can expect fighters to do fairly mundane things with weapons, but with such overwhelming skill that none can hope to stand against them.
I’m sure that the people at Wizards thought that this point would “clarify” point #2. “You won’t be less effective than the Wizard or Cleric, you’ll just be doing things differently.” Hogswallow. I’m not fooled. Let’s take a look at the three examples they gave:
Beowulf slew Grendel by tearing his arm off. So… are we going to have rules for removing limbs now? Actually, that’s an unworthy question, I know we won’t. This is an example of narrative, not mechanics. I can do this now if I want to. It’s just flavor text.
He later killed a dragon almost singlehandedly. Um, no. There is no way that this translates well into actual play. Either the character wandered off and did something epic by himself or the Fighter completely overshadowed the other characters in a fight that largely defines the genre. Neither perspective on that feels right.
Roland slew or gravely injured four hundred Saracens in a single battle. Great. How many Saracens did the Wizard kill? This is another example of a story that doesn’t translate into play.
4. The Fighter Is Versatile
The fighter is skilled with all weapons. The best archer, jouster, and swordmaster in the realm are all fighters. A monk can match a fighter’s skill when it comes to unarmed combat, and rangers and paladins are near a fighter’s skill level, but the fighter is typically in a class by itself regardless of weapon.
I’m on board with this one.
5. The Fighter Is the Toughest Character
The fighter gets the most hit points and is the most resilient character. A fighter’s skill extends to defense, allowing the class to wear the heaviest armor and use the best shields. The fighter’s many hit points and high AC renders many monsters’ attacks powerless.
You had me right until the last line.
6. A High-Level Fighter and a High-Level Wizard Are Equal
Too often in D&D, the high-level fighter is the flunky to a high-level wizard. It’s all too easy for combinations of spells to make the wizard a far more potent enemy or character, especially if a wizard can unleash his or her spells in rapid succession. A wizard might annihilate a small army of orcs with a volley of fireballs and cones of cold. The fighter does the same sword blow by sword blow, taking down waves of orcs each round. Balancing the classes at high levels is perhaps the highest priority for the fighter, and attaining balance is something that we must do to make D&D fit in with fantasy, myth, and legend. Even if a wizard unleashes every spell at his or her disposal at a fighter, the fighter absorbs the punishment, throws off the effects, and keeps on fighting.
I’m going to go with “show me” on the issue of balance when a fighter tackles a wizard, though I think that’s kind of beside the point. The people I talk to are more concerned about agency than balance, though they still care about balance. The most important thing is that non-spellcasters sometimes be the one to solve the puzzle or overcome the challenge.
1. A Fighter gets in the thick of things.
Fighters are usually melee characters. They use weapons and armor. A Fighter is usually at the center of a fight, leading the action and picking out targets.
2. A Fighter can take it and dish it out.
The real trick to a Fighter is that they can be built many different ways, based on what you want.
Defense (****): Fighters generally wear heavy armor and often carry a shield. They tend to be agile and sturdy.
Damage (*** to ****): Fighters can do consistent damage. They are more accurate than most classes.
Control (***): Fighters challenge their foes and move them around/force them to move in certain ways.
Support (**): Fighter support abilities usually only affect the Fighter. This is usually limited to abilities that remove effects, provide self-heal or boost the Fighter.
Utility (*): Fighter abilities do not generally add utility.
3. Wizards and Clerics wield supernatural powers; A Fighter becomes superhuman.
The more powerful a Fighter becomes, the more he taps into something. In epic play, the Fighter is a figure of legend, capable of feats far beyond normal people.
4. A Fighter is a master of weapons.
A Ranger might be the best with a bow and a Rogue might master the dagger, but neither can match the Fighter in versatility. In a pinch, a fighter uses the terrain and whatever improvised weapons are available to get the job done.
5. Every Fighter has a reputation and a story.
Stop and think about all the Fighters from books and film. People knew who they were. That’s what distinguishes a Fighter from some peasant that can swing a sword. A Fighter’s deeds mark him.