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Beefing Up the Fighter Option II

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As I mentioned in my Beefing Up the Fighter -- Option I post on February 26th:

Many people seem to think the D&D Fighter class is too weak, especially at higher levels. While I think this is less true in TSR versions of D&D, many people disagree. I've come up with two simple options for beefing up the damage a Fighter does, especially at higher levels. Neither has been playtested, but both look good on paper. If you feel the fighter needs beefing up, you might want to give one of these options a try. Both options are designed with old school D&D in mind, they would probably need modification to work in 3.x and might not even make sense in 4e.

In my Beefing Up the Fighter -- Option I, I gave a simple Weapon Mastery rule that raises the amount of damage a fighter does with selected weapons as he gains levels. Today I have a different way of beefing up the Fighter, special rules for critical hits. This rule assumes that you define a critical hit as rolling a natural 20 that would otherwise hit) and that a critical ht does double damage. If critical hits work differently in your campaign and you wish to use this rule, you will have to adjust to to fit your critical hit rules.

Fighter Critical Hits: While a non-Fighter character critical hits for double damage on a natural attack roll of 20 (that would otherwise hit), when a fighter scores a critical hit and its effects depend on the fighter's level:
  • At level 1-5, a fighter scores a Critical Hit on a natural roll of 19 or 20 that otherwise would hit. On a natural 19 roll critical hit, the fighter does 2x damage. On a natural 20 roll critical hit, the fighter does 2x damage and gets a second free attack against that opponent..
  • At level 6-10, a fighter scores a Critical Hit on a natural roll of 18 through 20 that otherwise would hit. On a natural 18 roll critical hit, the fighter does 2x damage. On a natural 19 roll critical hit, the fighter does 3x damage. On a natural 20 roll critical hit, the fighter does 3x damage and gets a second free attack against that opponent.
  • At level 11-15, a fighter scores a Critical Hit on a natural roll of 17 through 20 that otherwise would hit. On a natural 17 roll critical hit, the fighter does 2x damage. On a natural 18 roll critical hit, the fighter does 3x damage. On a natural 19 roll critical hit, the fighter does 4x damage. On a natural 20 roll critical hit, the fighter does 4x damage and gets a second free attack against that opponent.
  • At level 16 or higher, a fighter scores a Critical Hit on a natural roll of 16 through 20 that otherwise would hit. On a natural 16 roll critical hit, the fighter does 2x damage. On a natural 17 roll critical hit, the fighter does 3x damage. On a natural 18 roll critical hit, the fighter does 4x damage. On a natural 19 roll critical hit, the fighter does 5x damage. On a natural 20 roll critical hit, the fighter does 5x damage and gets a second free attack against that opponent.
Note: Only the Fighter class should get Weapon Mastery. Fighter sub-classes or other fighter-like classes should not.

Like the Weapon Mastery rule, the Fighter Critical Hits rule has the effect of ramping up the damage a Fighter can do as his level increases. The Weapon Mastery rule give the fighter more predictable high damage per round when he is using a mastered weapon. The Fighter Critical Hits has a much more variable effect on the amount of damage a fighter will do with a single attack, but it applies to any weapon the fighter uses. The second option looks more complex, but I think it is more "very wordy to describe" than it is much more complex.

If I were going to use one of these rules in my campaign, I'd likely pick the Weapon Mastery rule. Every campaign is different, however, and I can thing of campaigns and player groups where the Fighter Critical Hits rule might work better. Remember, however, that I'm not convinced that the fighter in early D&D really needs to be beefed up.


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2 comments:
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Sam Curry said...
March 6, 2013 at 10:11 PM  

There's an article worth reading in Gygax Magazine #1 by Lenard Lakofka ("Leomund's Secure Shelter" on pages 16 and 17): in the "math" section he looks at a normalization of damage per round. He comes up with a system to answer the question "what's better, a +1 to hit or +1 to damage weapon?"

The analysis is fun, but it drove home for me a major point: it isn't about how much damage you do on a successful hit, it's about the regular, predictable damage output that your character can produce. This put "to hit" and "damage" on a single, common playing field for comparison.

The technique can be used to compare any "+" values: is it better to have +3 to hit or +5 to damage, for instance? I mention this because Fighters have a very important a ability...the best improving to hit rates. Using Mr. Lakofka's technique, you can see a linear increase in the damage output for a fighter even if the actual damage on a successful hit doesn't increase.

Of course, doing a full analysis (which I haven't done...yet) might indicate that Fighter's should do more (or less) damage, have better (or worse) to hits or neither.

Another elegant point in the same magazine was made in "D&D pastm present, now and Next" by Michael Tresca (pages 38 and 39): "The early editions of D&D explicitly created power curves unique to each class, with experience point requirements and power advancements that were their own rule systems." This rings true to me -- it says if you pay the price early on, you get the rewards later as a Wizard, and it explains why we were perfectly happy in our blissful ignorance of "game balance" when we had a 9th level Wizard slumming with a 5th level fighter!

So...do we really need to power up the fighter's damage...or is it just fine?

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Randall said...
March 7, 2013 at 1:19 PM  

@Sam Curry: Don't get me wrong I agree. Numbers-wise, Len is correct and this tradeoff (steady low damage for fighters vs concessional high damage for magic-users) in D&D has been known for many years. I suspect Len might have even at least mentioned this in his old column in The Dragon.

However, as (1) I'm not big on "the Math rules" (as it seems to in modern D&D), (2) a sizable minority of players think the fighter needs to be able to do more damage as the fighter gains levels, and (3) allowing the fighter to do more damage as he levels does not really ruin the game, I've come up a couple of optional rules for increased fighter damage for those who feel that this is needed in their campaign. I don't use either of these Fighter Damage Options in my campaigns as I do not have a problem with the amount of damage fighters do. These two options will likely be included in Lords & Wizards as optional rules for those who don't share our views.

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