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I play a level 10 fighter of Dwarven heritage in a party with a cleric, Druid, and Rogue, and the character does not use magic at all. I have very good, flexible DMs who understand my position and try to help. However even they are having troubles keeping my character up to date, despite Inherent Bonuses and such. I'm falling behind, and most DMs don't want to force me into the uncomfortable position of having to have a magic item.

So I am putting this out here to see what I get. Aside from Inherent Bonuses, do you have any homebrew or official ways of improving the ability of a mundane weapon (or a mundane fighter) to slay increasing CR challenges.

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Welcome to the site, Daniel. We've addressed this issue before; you might find some insights here:… – Jadasc Jun 25 '12 at 0:15
What about some house-ruled weapons which are not technically magical, but have comparable power. (really well made? Technological? Use chemistry and gunpowder instead of fireball? The flaming sword is not flaming because of magic, but because of you coating it in Greek fire?). One extreme would be to have similar weapons but with different names (a +2 sword is not enchanted, just expertly made), the other extreme would be a steampunk setting. Surely some compromise could be found between the two? – vsz Jul 9 '14 at 15:32
up vote 28 down vote accepted

The game is not designed to support your style of play. You cannot defeat mid-game challenges without fundamentally changing the mechanical basis of your character or the game. However, if you take a different class and call yourself a fighter without magic items, your narrative concept is preserved without ignoring the mechanical realities of the game.

The fundamental problem exists with the social contract you have with the rest of the group. While I applaud your determination to avoid "magic," the system and the mathematics presented by the system require said "magic."

Setting the fundamental problem aside, though. You present an interesting technical problem. You have, functionally, sworn a vow of poverty (in the book of exalted deeds) sense as a player, instead of a character. Furthermore, suggesting that you run a different class, one more able to be talented in the absence of magic is also basically out.

The short version is to give your PC the feat vow of poverty for free. Refluff it to support your concept of "mundane guy fighting dragons." The feat has problems, but the way you're playing your character, it should provide the necessary math-fixes to your character at the appropriate levels to simulate magical items. Another option is the leadership feat. you can substitute "quality" (magic items) with "quantity." Having a small army at your back can equalize many problems.

The longer version is to realize that a mundane guy... will indeed die when fighting dragons. If you choose not to refluff any existing options then you will indeed have harder and harder going. While this presents a very compelling campaign of a bunch of normal people trying to do a "hero's" job, that is something that everyone in the party will have to get behind. If you're a fighter in a group of magic-using and wielding people, and refuse to alter the mechanical basis of your character (not necessary the fluff of it), then the game will indeed be far more difficult for you than was otherwise intended.

What I would do, if I was playing a "mundane" character out to save the world is base it either on a factotum or one of the classes (probably warblade) from book of nine swords. Both offer acceptable in-game mechanical capabilities, even though they'll be horribly outclassed by the "magic" using people. Warblade is somewhat compatible with vow of poverty (especially one that allows you metal armor and weapons). The skill capabilities of the factotum (and if we refluff the light "magic" capabilities to be martial practices) also suit what I think your "find ways to cause the environment to kill the problems rather than me being some idiot in a tin suit running up to the dragon" methodology.

Therefore, my concept would be well served, but mechanically I would be able to play the same game as the rest of the party, supporting them in their fun without ruining my fun.

For more reading, see:

  • Tier system for classes, this looks at the mechanical ability (instead of your preferred inventive ability) of classes to operate within and outside their areas of expertise. Huge variation in tier-capability can make people feel less powerful. Those feelings, unfortunately, are often correct.
  • Constrained Optimization in D&D, My paper on optimization. While it looks at 4e in detail, it should give you some idea of the interactions between the mechanical-theoretical level and the story-narrative level. On the other hand, it may be particularly infuriating to you, as I don't privilege character-action over mechanics in any way. If you are likely to become offended at this sort of statistical treatment of game, I don't recommend reading it.
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+1 for "The game is not designed to support your style of play." As soon as the Dwarf above meets something invisible or flying or having damage resistance requiring magic weapons, they are useless. – Greenstone Walker Mar 20 '14 at 20:14
@GreenstoneWalker Or incorporeal. Or standing on a high ledge or on the other side of some lava. Or an aquatic enemy that needs to be stopped in its underwater lair. Or nearly any enemy in the game that is appropriate for mid- to high-level characters. – Matthew Najmon Mar 20 '14 at 20:24

The forsaker class sounds like what you're looking for. Last I saw it was in Sword and Fist. They hate magic items and gain enhancement abilities and spell resistance, many other things too, through destroying them. It's a prestige class that only requires four things: The feats iron will, great fortitude and lightning reflexes; and an oath to forsake magic. Some flavor text but that's all.

One more thing, you might check out the vow of poverty feat from Book of Exalted Deeds. Gives you as a character special bonuses, instead of causing you to have to rely on equipment such as vorpal swords and the like. I ran a scout with it at tenth level, and she survived for longer than the rest of our ten person party.

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Maybe it's not as good as what is needed to slay a dragon, but a good, focused build can dish out enough damage even without resorting to magic tricks.

There's a feat in Complete Warrior called Leap Attack that allows you to double your Power Attack bonus while charging, provided you jump long enough. While optimal builds include boots of battle, a belt of battle, a lion pounce or rhyno's charge spell and a valorous weapon, a friend of mine (17th level factotum) manages to deal 120 damage in a charge + extra action attack in an antimagic field.

Three problems still remain. First, your enemies won't be in an antimagic field. Second, not everybody is ok with a flying dwarf, third, you need to be able to charge.

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Leap Attack: And that feat rocks. Especially at epic levels when combined with Dire Charge. – LitheOhm Aug 14 '12 at 6:40
let us continue this discussion in chat – Zachiel Aug 14 '12 at 20:55

By fifth level, fighters aren't much good against CR-appropriate challenges even with magic items. Your best bet is to use a class that's actually good at fighting, and just call yourself a fighter, as per Brian Ballsun-Stanton's answer. You'll still unavoidably be pathetically weak if you don't use any magic items at all, with any class, since WBL is a big part of total character power, and pretty much maxes out on mundane gear by level 3. Again, re-fluffing is the key: you can probably come up with something that follows the same mechanics as magic items, but in a way acceptable to the character.

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swinging around to the martial manouvers of the Warblade class (Tome of Battle) might also be an option for you. in most campaigns, that book is heavily op due to massive class benefits stacking with magic weapons, but here it might be just what you need

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Actually, the warblade is one of the most balanced, well-designed classes in the game. The class benefits are quite paltry compared to what spellcasters get, but at least they get benefits, unlike most mundane classes. Tome of Battle is, by far, the best book published by WotC for 3.5, and I strongly suggest you give it a try if you are basing your opinion on what you have read on the internet. Yes, the classes are better than their PHB counterparts; the fighter, monk, and paladin are three of the weakest classes in the game. So being better than those is a good thing. – KRyan Mar 20 '14 at 12:23
@KRyan, turn that into an answer, please. – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Mar 20 '14 at 12:54
I agree @KRyan; beyond being a reasonable response to the idea that Warblades and the ToB are OP, that seems like a pretty good way to respond to the question itself. (Even if the answer is: don't be a fighter, just be something that looks like a fighter) – doppelgreener Mar 20 '14 at 13:29
@BrianBallsun-Stanton No, because it's still the wrong answer; yours is the correct one. An item-less warblade will be better off than an item-less fighter, but both will fail to meet the expectations of the system. The system assumes and demands magic to be present in order to scale into the higher levels, and there is simply no way, within the rules, to get around that if the DM wants to continue to challenge the rest of the party, which is using magic. – KRyan Mar 20 '14 at 16:23

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