Solutions to the Linear Fighter vs. Quadratic Wizard

An outline of the problem.

Possible solutions: this summary-post on Paizo that I wrote up awhile back, and just found it again. From the thread “Options x Numbers: aka: “Why wizards are so friggin’ powerful”

Re-Printing my Post from the Paizo Boards.

Increasing Options for Fighters

1) Fighters get 4+Int mod skill points / level 
2) More class skills for Fighter (Heal and Perception suggested, at minimum) 
3) Bravery applies to Charm and Compulsion effects OR give a second “good save” for fighters (probably Wil save) 
4) Remove or reduce prereqs for Combat Maneuver feats, or have one prereq for all of them that isn’t based on a non-fighter ability score. 
5) Eliminate Int requirement for Combat Expertise (i.e. remove the “ability tax” the fighter must pay for this feat) 
6) Allow feats to scale into their Greater equivalents with level, rather than by having to spend more feats (i.e. if you have TWF, you get Improved TWF at level X).

Other possibilities (some for rogues too): 
NOTE: Errata exists such that Weapon Finesse bonus applies to Disarm and Dirty Trick combat maneuvers (so high-Dex rogues can still do these high-finesse moves). – Credit to Nicos for pointing this out.
– Combat Expertise also gives +4 AC vs. AoOs triggered by combat maneuver attempts, similar to how Mobility works with movement, in addition to its normal effects. 
– Give rogues a second good save (I would say Fort, given the rough-and-tumble image of the typical rogue, but whatever suits) 
– Allow some feats to be taken twice, and stack (such as Iron Will) or the following: 
– Feats that improve saves give +4 to that save, rather than +2 (Greater Fortitude, Lightning Reflexes, Iron Will). This allows non-combat feats to shore up the massive disparity between saves for different character types, at the cost of a feat, thus allowing feats to shore up weaknesses rather than boost strengths (which is more typical).

Nerfing the Casters: 
Reduce durations, or don’t allow durations to increase by level in an unlimited fashion (i.e. similar to how Cure Light caps out at +5, cap spell durations at 5 levels above the level when you get that spell).

Have some spells that imitate other class features give a BONUS to doing that task, rather than automatic success (i.e. knock = +10 Disable, Spider Climb = +10 climb, Invis = +10 stealth instead of +20, etc).

Don’t allow bonus spells slots for high attributes (and don’t lynch me for suggesting it). Casters get enough benefit from their primary stat as it is. The idea of limited-but-gamechanging effects of spells is more balanced the less frequently it can be used.

Go back to d4 hp / level for Wizards. Yes, this will result in some wizards not making it to high levels, as they will die. This is the intentional risk-vs-reward trade-off of the wizard. It also helps Fighters or Rogues kill Wizards in a single surprise round, which makes Fighters and Rogues feel good.

My Own Thoughts and Comments

– Knowledge skills never used to exist. Monster stats were gained by hard experience and a “character monster log” rather than “the DM tells you because you made your check”. You as DM do not have to give out information you don’t want players to have, just because they made a check.

– the DM, being the ultimate arbiter, should be able to design a challenge even for the most powerful caster, while still giving Fighters a chance to shine (and not necessarily in every encounter). Most campaigns can usually be balanced for the party in question by encounter design and what types of magic items are allowed to be created/given as loot/found by each character. I realize this was not the point of the thread, but it speaks to what many are criticising re: the power imbalance.

– If you have players that are truly that intelligent, they probably also want to be challenged, even if their characters are miniature gods. Work with them to create the kind of campaign that suits you and all your players. I bet that people who put the thought into designing severely-OP wizards are having tons of fun (and are probably overcompensating for how squishy they felt at level 1).

– “Classic D&D” has ALWAYS had wizards start weak and end strong, and Fighters start strong and end weaker. This is what you sign up for when playing the game known for years as “D&D”. Attempts to change this have radically altered the feel of the game (e.g. 4e). Some of us are okay with the original paradigm.

– Skill checks never used to exist. Mess with skills, change them around, do whatever you need to so that they fit with how you want them to work in your campaign. Welcome to “adding houserules” as the solution. That said…

– This game is designed with a built-in referee, meaning that house rules can be the order of the day. This means that you can guide the game dynamically based on player preferences, player skill levels, and apparent imbalances.

I thank all the contributors to this thread for their thoughts and warnings about imbalances that I may yet encounter, and suggestions about what to do about them. I understand why people want to see these things fixed in the manual, so we will all have a place to look up rules and not have to wade through 1000 forum posts to find the answers to the problems that many of us run into re: balance.

Caster Points:

A very old suggestion/method to nerf highlevel casters and boost low-level casters is to give every spellcaster “casting energy points” with which to cast spells, instead of spell slots. It costs a number of points equal to the spell level to cast the spell, and the spellcaster gains these points about as quickly as hitpoints ([d6+half casting attribute bonus] / level, min 2). You can adjust the #points / level as you see fit, and should probably start at max-roll at first level (i.e. 6+intmod at 1st level, whatever). This method was devised before Sorcerer existed as a class, and is mainly aimed at the Wizard class.

Option: Once the caster is out of casting energy, he can burn hp at double or triple rate to cast more spells (i.e. 9th level spell = 18 or 27 hp).

Other comments made in the thread

People pointed out that:

  • You only need one member of the party who’s skilled at certain things, whether it’s locks, traps, divination, or crowd control, and it doesn’t need to be the fighter.
  • SOMEONE needs to stand in front. It ain’t the wizard, especially at low levels. But yes, it could be the cleric…
  • Armor Check penalty sucks, and could be halved or eliminated if you’re proficient with the armor.
  • Rogues suck too. Yes, they do. Most of the skills they are known for can easily be replaced by magic at mid-high levels, and the magic is safer and more reliable.
  • Fighters are generally better at low levels, wizards are better at high levels. It’s been this way since 1st edition AD&D, and it could be said that it’s the trade-off that players buy into when picking their class.
  • You still choose your class. If you don’t like solving all problems with a pointy stick, don’t pick a fighter.