Wait, your swordsage can run up and stab a guy with a fireball (which he's immune to), on top of a normal attack. He can do this 4 times, and take a one round break to get a full charge again?

You DO know my sorcerer needs 8 hours to do that, right? That's 2880 rounds.

Is there any way to deal with the power inflation found in 3.5 Tome of Battle and bring it back down the core 3.5 power levels?

I want my players to be able to pick up a straight fighter, cleric, rogue, barbarian, etc from the core books and not feel like they're useless in a fight when they're next to swordsage and the like.

For the specific issue above, you could say something basic like, maneuvers don't recharge till you get an 8 hour break, or give sorcerers some way to regen magic mid-battle. But that's just one thing out of, well, an entire book. Going through and balancing all the books out there is, well, a full time job. It's the sort of thing that gamers pay money for.

I'm also open to generic advice about how to deal with power inflation.

  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ I thought a martial character couldn't ready the same maneuver multiple times? As I understood it, each of your readied maneuvers had to be different so you couldn't just spam the same maneuver over and over; you had to reset a readied maneuver (however your class did that) before you could use it again. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cobalt
    Mar 22, 2014 at 22:00

2 Answers 2


Ancedotes do not make for useful data. If necessary, suggest a psychic warrior to your swordsage. It's pure SRD, and has "impressive moves" without rendering the sorcerer moot, but there are no prima facie power imbalances here.

Looking at this well reviewed ranking system We see that all of the ToB classes are neatly within Tier 3:

Tier 3: Capable of doing one thing quite well, while still being useful when that one thing is inappropriate, or capable of doing all things, but not as well as classes that specialize in that area. Occasionally has a mechanical ability that can solve an encounter, but this is relatively rare and easy to deal with. Can be game breaking only with specific intent to do so. Challenging such a character takes some thought from the DM, but isn't too difficult. Will outshine any Tier 5s in the party much of the time.

Examples: Beguiler, Dread Necromancer, Crusader, Bard, Swordsage, Binder (without access to the summon monster vestige), Wildshape Varient Ranger, Duskblade, Factotum, Warblade, Psychic Warrior

The sorcerer you mentioned is Tier 2: with the spells offered by all of the splatbooks and spell compendium, they should be able to beat or equal a ToB character most of the time, depending on what realms they want to specialize in.

Clerics and Wizards are off in Tier 1, as they can compete against a tome of Battle character whenever they choose.

I would say: There is no power creep in Tome of Battle that is not exceeded by spell choices. ToB finally grants stabby types the chance to approach (but not equal) the genuine caster classes.

Looking at rate of power recharge is a mistake when not accounting for all other factors. The way to deal with power inflation is to get a group of characters that are clustered around one of the tiers, such that no one character can "win" at everything where the rest cannot. You also need to consider relative levels of optimization and system mastery between players, of course.

The easiest way to "balance" is to forbid the book. Nerfing the classes is severely contraindicated when looking at their relative power and choices. The most effective way to balance is to consider your specific party makeup, the requirements of your players, and asking for different power or class choices from some of the players.

At the end of the day, if you're worried about balance between classes, 3.5 may not be the system for you.

Some resources:

First, there is a broken combo in ToB when combined with cleric and extra turns: the Ruby Knight Vindicator. But that requires a fairly specific build and already has turning cheese in it.

Now, to take a look at your specific point of recharging and timing. The closest equivalent to "fireball" that I can find is Ring of Fire:

As part of this maneuver, you can move up to two times your speed along the ground. All of your movement must be along continuous, solid ground. You leave a trail of flames in your wake. These flames have no effect unless they form a closed area. In this case, a raging inferno erupts within that area. All creatures within the area take 12d6 points of fire damage, with a Reflex save (DC 16 + your Wis modifier) for half damage.

Presuming that you have optimized your speed somehow and have a base speed of 50' by 13th level or so this is a 6th level maneuver) you'll be able to create a 12d6 ring of fire.. with a 100' circumference. Or a 15' explosion. At 12th level, a sorcerer who took fireball... can spontaneously cast 6-8 20' radius fireballs in the same combat with 10d6 damage as well as a far longer range chain lightning (taking only from the SRD here).

If a 12th level sorcerer uses all of her fireballs in a day, it's likely she can call it a bad hair day and go home, as that's an incredibly large amount of magical resources to have expended. It's the same boat as the warlock: The "endless uses per day" only looks good in an unrealistically long adventuring day. Instead, the power, damage, range, and versatility of a caster will win out almost every time. Furthermore, this sorcerer could take arcane strike and/or use the 6th level "transformation" spell to be more effective than the swordsage in melee combat, if she so chooses.

Granting these abilities to the people who swing pointy sticks around evens the battlefield slightly... in their direction. Also, the 1 round break recharges 1 maneuver, not all of them, which is a remarkably horrible recharge mechanic.

"How to deal with this class for the rest of the group that is pure PHB?"

This is difficult, honestly. It is quite easy for sorcerers to choose the wrong spells and suchlike. The first thing I would do is allow the other players to "retcon" their characters . One thing that I've found that is somewhat workable is to allow every player to request one and only one extra book, thereby keeping the proliferation of splat somewhat manageable. Of course, your sorcerer should ask for the spell compendium, but that's perfectly within his right.

My recommendation, at the end of the day is "don't try to balance 3.5 splat." Instead, if it ends up that one player is taking too much of the spotlight, ask them to retcon some aspects of their character: perhaps multiclassing into something else or otherwise lowering their tier. At the same time, give other players options to edit their characters or revise past poor decisions.

When considering Death Mark and sorcerers:

The specific power identified is Death Mark:

When you use the strike, you channel overwhelming fiery energy into the body of your foe. In addition to dealing normal melee damage with your attack, you cause fire to erupt from your enemy’s body in a spread. The radius of the spread is determined by the size of the target creature, as indicated on the table below. All creatures in the area, including your enemy, take 6d6 points of fire damage, with a Reflex save (DC 13 + your Wis modifier) for half. This radius is centered on the creature’s position. You have immunity to the fire damage from your own death mark. This maneuver is a supernatural ability.

As a 10' party-unfriendly "fireball" it seems like an interesting choice. However, this isn't even mentioned in the "stuff to care about" on the optimization threads Given that the choice is between this and stuff from shadow hand, be far more concerned about shadow hand. Still, a sorcerer has far greater range at far less risk, though they should not be evocation "focused" Looking at the other choices, deep slumber is a fantastic save-or-win, and explosive runes is incomparable in damage. (Mmm, explosive rune grenades. Horrible horrible horrible carnage).

Still, console the sorcerer that he has not yet come into his "power." And note when the sorcerer runs out of spells in play. I am also happy to help refine her spell selections to completely overshadow the swordsage. (With or without extra splat).


A lot of the trouble people see with ToB classes is that they tend to omit their individual limits where they gain access to their powers in different ways from class to class ()crusader/swordsage/etc. the crusader has a random selection at the start of combat with ways to add/swap/refresh the selection through use & such... If you treat it like a sorcerer with everything always available ad people often do, it's almost as out of wack as doing the same with a wizard's spellbook. Sword sage & the other one has its own limitations on choices as well.

Yes they are more powerful than your average fighter type variant, but so is a wizard or sorcerer, double or triple so if you don't follow the rules binding the class. If you have trouble with one player stealing the spotlight too badly, just talk to them & ask them to change their ways a bit if they are just taking things too far with a trick. If it's a trick where that's the only thing the character can do because of build, work with them to adjust and/or find a way to short circuit the trick & do it sometimes. Scorching ray looks hella powerful if it never meets resist fire, if it does though the spell was pretty well wasted for example. If the problem is that everyone else's character is just super awful, work with them instead to fix the problem itself


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