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D&D 3E
Problems with Tome of Battle and Campaign -- warning, rant ahead 
3rd-Nov-2007 12:46 pm
Grinning Revi!  ^_^
Describing exactly what I didn't like about ToB, and what I think the DM in the game I was in did wrong with it, is a rather difficult thing for me, since I am still relatively new to D&D in general, and am quite unfamiliar with Tome of Battle. Something about the whole thing struck me as wrong, to be honest. I think part of this may be my sense that, as cool as anime is, it's not something that really belongs in a fantasy roleplaying game. Also, there is the stubborn attachment to the notion that the Fighter can be just as good as a Wizard or Cleric at higher levels. While many people here and elsewhere hold this notion to be a myth, it is one that, in spite of some evidence to the contrary, I still hold on to.

Also, I think that I may not have a problem with Tome of Battle itself so much as what was done with it. highbulp suggested this possibility. It is also possible that, even if the DM was using Tome of Battle correctly, more or less, I still had a problem with the campaign in general, thus souring my opinion of everything in it.

So, on to the evidence.

This game was intended from the start as a ridiculously overpowered, cheese-filled game that would go far into epic levels; the setting is essentially the same setting as an anime-themed rpg video game called Disgaea, though I use the word "rpg" loosely.

We leveled much faster than we realistically should have (at least once every session).

Almost all of the players were powergaming to a greater or lesser extent, and there was also a lot of metagaming going on (as symbolized by the "goggles of metagaming" magic item that was sold to several party members).

Tome of Battle was pretty standard usage for anybody who wasn't a caster. As stated in the previous post, the DM was a Tome of Battle fanboy, with all the positive and negative (mostly negative for me) connotations that the word "fanboy" implies.

As we rose in level, there were fewer and fewer instances of roleplaying in our games. While I enjoy going out a killing monsters as much as the next player, I also like there to be a little bit of actual in character interaction in the games that doesn't involve killing shit.

Money. We got way too rich, way too fast. My character just hit level 30 and is pretty absurd right now. I haven't even used half of the gold I've been given, and I don't think anybody else has used up all their money either.

For some reason, even though I like anime and wuxia films and cool stuff like that, I don't know that I like it in D&D games. It just feels wrong somehow, out of place. I cannot deny that the ToB classes can do a lot of really, really cool stuff, but something about them just doesn't seem to fit. At the same time, I want to be able to play fighter types and feel that they are still useful at high levels.

This is where it starts getting personal. The DM keeps promoting ToB, and is kind of an ass about it, and whenever we discuss/argue about it, I always seem to end up losing. This has made me more than a little bitter, I will confess.

Like other people on this comm, I have the sense that WotC should have fixed the Fighter instead of creating new classes. With all the other supplements out there, there are more than enough classes to last any 3.5 player until 5th edition comes out.

I continually got the sense, playing in this game, that we were having a far easier time of it than we should have been. Perhaps that was the DM going easy on us because he wanted us to level. Or perhaps that was the Tome of Battle classes being ridiculously overpowered.

If someone could link me to the Wizards forum thread where they did comparisons between ToB and non-ToB classes, that'd be great. I'd like to see whether or not these classes are actually as broken as I've thought. So, thoughts? Is the problem with the game, the DM, or the Tome of Battle? I will say that given what I know about my gaming style now, this was probably not the best game to join, and the DM might be a lot better in other games. He knows he's not the best DM out there, and is generally more than a little unprepared.
3rd-Nov-2007 09:16 pm (UTC)
There's nothing stopping you from using ToB feats as a Fighter and not using the classes (such as Martial Study and Martial Stance).

It sounds to me like your DM just wanted to run Final Fantasy with pens and paper. His prerogative, to be sure, but it seems that would be better served on a Playstation 2.

I'm gonna lean towards the "DM being poor" theory, particularly evidenced by his use of Goggles of Metagaming.
3rd-Nov-2007 09:32 pm (UTC)
Spot on on the ToB feats. There was one that let's your unarmed strike damage increase faster that looked cool. And agreed on the matter of the whole thing being better served with a Playstation 2.
3rd-Nov-2007 09:37 pm (UTC)
Superior Unarmed Strike. Yes, I like that one as well. 'Bout damn time they had one like it.

And it is better served on a Playstation 2 if that's what Tome of Battle is being used for.
3rd-Nov-2007 09:52 pm (UTC)
Indeed, and that's what I'm not sure about. I'd need to see an honest to goodness, average D&D campaign where major magic items aren't being thrown around like they're just masterwork daggers. I'd need to see how the classes look when the game isn't being powergamed to the hilt. So I guess the best option is to join a game that uses Tome of Battle and is run by a more experienced and less powergaming prone DM to see how it works.
3rd-Nov-2007 10:56 pm (UTC)
It sounds like your DM wasn't as competent as he needed to be. I would say though, that the idea that the Fighter scales as well into high levels as the Cleric or the Wizard is pretty ludicrous. 9th level spells are superior by several orders of magnitude than Whirlwind Attack, and that's about the longest Feat chain a Fighter can go for.

As an aside, 9th level spells are also superior to 9th level maneuvers and stances. Shapechange will on average be much better than Time Stands Still or Strike of Perfect Clarity, no matter what kind of game you're playing in.
3rd-Nov-2007 11:19 pm (UTC)
But in your experience, a Warblade (for example) with 9th level maneuvers is closer to a Wizard with 9th level spells?
3rd-Nov-2007 11:33 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah, definitely. I just mean there's a tendency to see the ToB as overpowered because melee characters have never had so many options before. Actually high-level spellcasters continue to win D&D.

I'd still rather play a Warblade than a Fighter though. Having options other than "attack" and "not attack" makes combat that much more fun.
4th-Nov-2007 03:36 am (UTC)
There's also a tendency to label ToB as anime...probably because that is the closest and easiest connection that many gamers can make. As easy as it is, that ignores how much of western mythology that anime is actually based on or draws from. If you're a frequent poster on the Wizards of the Coast boards, a fairly well known poster named Tempest Stormwind has made some excellent comparison posts.

Also, as you point out, ToB looks overpowered because the base fighter class is so bland! The PHb2 has gone a long way toward making the fighter powerful, but in the end his best attacks consist of little more than 'I full attack, so there'.

4th-Nov-2007 06:04 am (UTC)
Interesting point you bring up, and one that a guy I know who runs a comic and games store brought up himself, except it was in relation to Exalted, before Tome of Battle came out. He was making the case that while everyone says Exalted is anime, if you look at ancient myths, many of them western in origin (King Arthur and people from that cycle of legends were one example), people in those stories could do crazy stuff like jump across a battlefield or smash entire groups of warriors away with their blades. More food for thought, heh.
4th-Nov-2007 12:17 pm (UTC)
Exactly. There's even one irish(?) myth about a guy that's pretty much a super saiyan. Seriously. He gets bigger, hair lightens, the works.

It's a typical gaelic name though. I couldn't type it out if my life depended on it. :)
7th-Nov-2007 07:29 am (UTC)
Was it Cu Chulainn or something? I've only heard a little about him, but from what I've heard he was pretty badass. Then again, there's plenty of Irish myth to go around...
7th-Nov-2007 02:23 pm (UTC)
That's him.

If you look him up on wikipedia, the stories about him are pretty interesting. I like the bit where he comes home (at 7 years old) from battle and has to be dunked in 3 barrels full of water to calm him down. His body was so hot that the water boiled when he was dunked in the first two barrels :)
4th-Nov-2007 06:37 am (UTC)
I'm going to try to avoid repeating a lot of the above comments, though there's bound to be some duplication.

The issue of Casters vs. Melee can be broken up in a two major ways:

a) Meleers have very few combat options. This can be both dull and also limiting in some situations.
b) At high levels (both high Characters levels AND at high levels of player skill), casters are far, far more powerful than melee characters.

"B" may not come up as much at casual gaming tables where the creativity of the GM and of Casters is limited enough that the Fighter with a 2-handed sword is just as deadly as a wizard. However, with the right application of magic, meleers are left in the dust unless they themselves invest heavily in magical items and Use Magic Device.

And yes, I think that Tome of Battle goes a long way to helping smart players play melee characters that can continue to shine in the 10+ levels.

In the end, though, I feel that "A" is the most important reason for the things Tome of Blood brings. A vanilla Fighter's options tend to be limited to "Full Attack". I mean, Charge/Sunder/Trip/Bull Rush really isn't that exciting as an alternative.

Many of Tome of Blood's maneuvers are perfectly non-anime, non-wuxia, non-magical moves (or can be imagined as such) that give meleers actual options each combat turn. Full Attack is still a perfectly viable move -- but it ain't the only one. But, at the same time, you only have some many readied maneuvers at once -- so it's a far cry from the dozens of spells at a wizard's command. As such, the end flavour is still very distinct.

(And to specifically address the anime clause -- I *never* considered ToB to be anime until today. Even now, I can't say that my mind sees it as such. A little wuxia, sure, but that's still different.)


In fact, the only way I can regard ToB as being "overpowered" is in the way that non-martial classes still add to your effective "caster level". (i.e. someone with 8 levels of fighter that takes 1 level of Warblade has access to level 3 powers.)

It's overpowered in that it's infinitely more splashable than anything else......except that I think it's a great idea.

After all, Fighter 8/Warblade 1 *won't* have maneuvers as strong as "Warblade 9" -- so where's the problem? This splashability gives you freedom to customize interesting characters.

Frankly I think that MORE things should work like that. I mean, we have Mystic Theurge, right? What if, instead, someone could go Cleric 8, Wizard 1 and gain access to 3rd level Arcane spells?

Would that really be a problem? You're a 9th-level party -- is a Fireball from the healer really going to upset the game balance?
4th-Nov-2007 06:49 am (UTC)
While it may not matter much, but I guess for simplicity's sake I tend to prefer to play things by the book. ;)

So let me see if I understand though... someone who takes several levels of Fighter and takes a level of Warblade has access to maneuvers higher than he normally would given his warblade level? I'm not sure if that makes sense or not...

The biggest problem I have at the moment with ToB classes is that they're another thing to get used to, i.e. new "spells" to learn, characters to restat, etc. Of course, no one is saying I have to eliminate Fighters from my campaign or that I should stop playing Fighters, but... ah well.

I am beginning to feel a little better about the book and what's in it though. Still can't quite shake the suspicion.
4th-Nov-2007 12:21 pm (UTC)
Non-martial adept classes are counted at 1/2 progression for qualifying for maneuvers and stances, if I don't misremember.

So a warblade8/fighter2 has an effective warblade level of 9. A fighter 8/warblade 2 has an effective wb level of 6.

It's a mechanic to not punish multiclassing.

If you do decide to play the book, I strongly recommend downloading the maneuver cards from the Wizards website. You can print them out on some cardstock and it will help you keep track of your readied and expended maneuvers (ie. if you've played magic...just 'tap' the maneuver when you've used it).
4th-Nov-2007 03:40 pm (UTC)
While it may not matter much, but I guess for simplicity's sake I tend to prefer to play things by the book. ;)

I wasn't suggesting that anyone use my spellcaster-hybrid example -- I was just using it to backup the idea that the ToB classes aren't crazy.

But yeah, I *love* splashing one level of Warblade somewhere in my Fighter build. You only get 3 maneuvers and one stance, but it adds an incredible depth of flavour and gives you a ton of options.

Yes, it is something new to learn -- and the maneuver names are IMPOSSIBLE to remember, at least for me. But overall the mechanics are very simply. In the end, you only have 3-5 maneuvers at your disposal. That's not much! Follow zilvar's idea of printing out the cards and there's virtually nothing to keep track of. It's certainly much simpler than playing a Wizard or a Psion.

As far as eliminating Fighters, there's certainly no reason to do so since multiclassing into Warblade/Crusader/Swordsage is so generous.

In fact, my current character is Barbarian 1/Divine Mind 1/Fighter 2/Warblade 1......but I'm intentionally going for something kinda wacky.
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