Fighter Design Goals
This week Mike continues his look at the D&D Next core classes with some thoughts on the design of the Fighter.
Mike’s first four points (The Fighter Is Best At Fighting, The Fighter Draws on Training, The Fighter Exists in a World of Myth) all seem pretty predictable to me. These are core elements of the Fighter. The other three made me pause a bit.
First up, #4: The Fighter Is Versatile. This is tough because I can totally argue both sides. Let’s start with the positive: the fighter should be versatile because it fits into the game better. Assuming some kind of proficiency rules (where, say, Wizards can’t use swords or whatever) being the person who can use any weapon is a big benefit. The typical D&D approach to treasure just amplifies that: being the fighter is especially useful because no matter what magical weapon shows up, you can use it if it suits you.
The downside that I see comes right from Mike’s second sentence of this point:
That’s great, but the flexibility of the fighter implies that those three would likely be the same person. If the fighter is flexible and the master of fighting then being a higher level fighter means being better with all weapons. The highest level fighter is not only the best swordsman, but likely the best axeman, hammerman, and anything-else-man.
Sure, there may be some quirk of the rules (like bows being Dex-based) that makes some weapons different. Still, for some types of games, this is really odd. If we’re playing Game of Thrones-style, where certain people are known for their prowess with certain weapons (Ice, Maege’s mace, hand-and-a-half swords in one hand), then this model of fighter seems out of place.
So again we come around to my favorite point: It Depends On What Kind of Game You’re Making.
Thankfully this is one time where we actually have an answer: it sounds like this is the kind of game where treasure is important and random, so the Fighter must be able to use all weapons well. Great! That isn’t the approach I’d take (see: Dungeon World) but it’s a totally reasonable approach. They just have to carry it through the rest of the game. If magic items aren’t random and the Fighter can always get the weapon they want then their ability to wield anything stops being interesting.
Mike’s next point, The Fighter Is the Toughest Character, is easy to agree with. Of course the Fighter is the toughest, that goes hand-in-hand with being able to wade into combat. I hate to nitpick, but the last sentence of this point bears some discussion:
The last point echoes the same untouchability:
I only pick on this because it’s one of my least-favorite things about modern D&D: misses do nothing. Assuming attack rolls work something like every other edition of D&D a high AC means that a large part of the time the results of a turn will be “nothing happens.” That’s a fine result in some games, where the opportunity cost of a round is a clear tradeoff. The fact that a miss does nothing in a tabletop war game is fine. But for many of the common modes of D&D having misses occur often just means that nothing happens.
If the Fighter really is so hard to touch that monsters miss against them often then that DM needs to be given the tools to make fights interesting. If the Fighter isn’t a likely target then the DM needs to make the Fighter’s job be about protecting others, finding ways to put their high AC between the orcs and the Wizard.
The other interesting side effect here is when we take the Fighter along with last week’s post about the Cleric: if the Fighter is all about being untouchable, who is the Cleric healing?
In World of Warcraft the answer is: still the Fighter, because the Fighter is the only one who can even stand long enough to heal against the big bads. But if that’s to be the case in D&D, the DM has to know that’s what they should be doing.
Overall I like this vision of the Fighter. It’s maybe a bit broad, and I’d prefer attacks that always meant something (even on a miss), but the core concept is strong. I just wonder if the DM will be given the right tools to still run interesting adventures for this kind of Fighter.