Actually, it’s known by many names. “Bullshit” is only one of them. If you’ve heard of Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards, or tier lists, or the guy at the gym fallacy, then you understand the gist. Whatever you like to call the martial/caster disparity, it all boils down to casters being reality-warping war gods who can reshape the cosmos at a whim, while martial characters can deal damage sometimes.

This design made sense back in the day. When 0e magic-users rolled 1d4 hit points and frequently died before level 2, it was an achievement to earn that fireball, much less phenomenal cosmic power. Fighting-mans were comparatively hardier. They had an easier time surviving into the late game, and part of their job was shepherding their scrawny wizard brethren through early-game dangers. After all, who wouldn’t want an arcane nuke on their side? Even better, because “I helped the other guy become a superhero” is unsatisfying, an emphasis on base-building and commanding armies meant that high-level martials could still affect the world on a grand scale. They might not have access to wish, but reshaping nations and winning fiefdoms was their bread and butter.

Smash cut to present day, and we’re still dealing with the fallout. Every edition tackles it differently, from 4e’s encounter powers (now everyone is a wizard!) to Pathfinder 2e’s emphasis on teamwork (casters are good at buffing)! You’ll also see frequent denunciations of the problem. (This is only an issue on paper! Real games are more balanced in practice!).

For my part, having cut my teeth on 3.X, I remember looking at optimized summoners gating in multiple balors and thinking, “Huh. That makes fighters kind of redundant.” And that does indeed strike me as a problem. I’m pretty sure Fighter shares that opinion at the moment.

And so, in light of these general musings, what say we enjoy a sane and rational discourse on the topic of martial/caster disparity? Have you run into it at your table? Is there a game or edition that gets it right? And why is everyone else too blind to understand the basic game design assumptions that undergird your own perfectly-rational opinion? Hit us with your hottest hot takes down in today’s can-of-worms comments!


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