I see a lot of debate often about who is better, spellcasters or warrior types. Usually at the top of the list are wizards, sorcerers, and clerics. At the bottom of the list fighters and rangers.
How can a fighter match up to a flying magically beefed up wizard with stoneskin. The damage ratios seem to get father apart as levels increase. A good 12th level fighter has 3 attacks and usually hits twice for 1d8+6 +2 (str) +2 (weapon spec) +2 (magic sword) per attack averaging 20 points of damage. The same level prepared wizard can inflict a 60 point maximized fireball from a safe distance from the fighter. Or even if they are engaged in hand to hand combat surely that stoneskin will take some of the hits effectively equalizing their hit points. Seems as if the match up is unfair.
To overcome a straight forward disadvantage fighter types have to use their strengths against their opponents in ways that are usually not obvious. I see many players boldy go into combat with their fighter type characters and not think about a plan of attack. Within the Online RPGs this effect is worse of all.
So what strengths does a fighter vs a spellcaster?
High chance to hit: Sure you can inflict damage but why not do something different, go for a called shot. Something that will disable your opponent or force him to retreat. The attack bonus of a fighter is the highest. At higher levels there isn’t much a fighter can’t hit with their sword. Some examples for a called shot are knee split, severing a hand, breaking a hand, kicking the opponent in a sensitive area, throwing sand in their face, tripping them, bashing them, grappling them, even boxing their ears.
Feats: There are some feats that imitate some of the examples above.
Restrictions: As a DM instead of adding more to the fighter, instead limit the spellcaster. In our campaigns we limited stoneskin to just the spellcaster. It made combat shorter and easier. Limit the feats used in the game if you feel they are unbalancing. Just because a feat is in the book doesn’t mean it has to be used.
Character Development: Instead of min-maxing your fighter select feats that make him well balanced. Making Clytus the 12th level human fighter have the most efficient to hit and damage by sacrificing wisdom, down to 6, and feats dedicated to saving throws just makes him a target for a simple spell like confusion. A typical 12th level wizard with an 18 int (base 16 + 2 for level increases) would have the spell save at 18 = 10 (base) +4 (spell level) +4 (wizards int). Clytus has a will save of +2 = 4 (base) – 2 (6 wisdom). He will save only 25% of the time. Now change Clytus to have a 12 wisdom and have him take the iron will feat and his save rises to +7 = 4 (base) + 2 (iron will feat) +1 (wisdom). He now makes the save 50% of the time. You now doubled his chances with 1 feat and a decent stat. What do you really sacrifice here? Perhaps +1 hit and damage from strength, and 1 feat?
Planning: Just because you encounter a wizard doesn’t mean you have to fight him right now. You can decide later to fight him.
The laboratory is now littered with the corpses of undead freshly slain by our heroes. As Kityann slashes the last of the powerful zombies she thinks how Acererak could fill the room with so many undead so quickly? This was horrifying and difficult to comprehend Kityann thought. Approaching the closed door on the far side of the long room she says “Ready?” to her companions, both nod in agreement. Xanth prepares a spell and Romulous whispers a prayer to Torm lifting his sword and shield toward the iron bound door stained with bone and blood. Kityann opens the door quickly preparing for the next challenge.
Immediately two winter wights rush the door as if waiting for the heroes to come. Xanth notices Acererak is already half way through casting wail of the banshee. Xanth realizes the lich will complete his spell first. He stops casting and says “he’s casting a death spell!”. Romulous prepares to charge through the winter wights in an attempt to engage Acererak directly before he finishes. Xanth sets his mind for the spell to come and prepares casting a different spell. Kityann looks at both of them, puts her hand on Romulous’s shoulder stopping him, and slams the door shut. Both her companions are shocked and look bewildered as they hear both winter wights smash into the door unexpectedly from the other side. A dry heavy sigh is heard from the powerful lich on the other side of the door. She holds the door closed and shrugs “run?” looking at her companions, both agree and they tread the other way…
Just because you are a fighter doesn’t mean you have to rush into combat. Think and use your greatest assets to your advantage. This applies to any other class that is fairly non-magic based such as rogues and monks. Find your opponent’s weak spots and take advantage of it even if it means you fight them later.