Talk:Musicus Meter (5e Guideline)

From D&D Wiki

Jump to: navigation, search

Proper/Improper? Use of the Meter[edit]

Using this as reference for wording traits is a slick way to direct traffic to it. I think an article to reference wording is fantastic, one of the better ideas to help others in fact. It's just hitting a nerve that a lot of templates are referencing the meter because, "wording". It's a very subliminal/indirect way to encourage the meter. I don't think it should be in templates at all. I support a guideline to reference wording, I don't think it should be tied to a meter though. BigShotFancyMan (talk) 09:08, 16 February 2018 (MST)

I have no idea what you want from me or this meter bsfm but you should probably answer GD on the race design guide page since you're the one with the primary issues in regard to it. The MM contains the wording for the majority of first-party races written in a way that they can be copy-pasted seamlessly and presented in a way that users can easily notice the way racial traits are not only written but formatted. In addition, you seem to be insinuating a lot ever time you come at me for meter use so if you've got some direct you wish to get off your chest feel free to key us in. --ConcealedLight (talk) 10:27, 16 February 2018 (MST)
I feel like, if these are oft-used traits, they should have a template ala Template:5e Darkvision. That and/or the wording of traits could be copied to another, meter-neutral, page. Then everybody wins \o/ --GamerAim Chatmod.png (talk) 11:18, 16 February 2018 (MST)
If my issue were with you, I'd comment on your talk page as I have before as you have requested. I've outlined an issue with the use of the meter, you happen to be the person doing it. It isn't personal, please recognize this. What I what with this meter has been made clear already. I am not aware of a question needing be answered, so I'll take a look.
If the MM has this, then I don't know why IT isn't referenced instead of meter that has received so much spotlight. GA makes a valid suggestion. BigShotFancyMan (talk) 11:33, 16 February 2018 (MST)
When I said MM I was referring to the Musicus Meter, the topic of the conversation. I'll use the full text when speaking to you next time. --ConcealedLight (talk) 13:54, 16 February 2018 (MST)

There are several areas that I disagree with this meter. For example, I do not believe that being Small is worth -1. As I note at 5e Race Design Guide#Marasmusine's Meter, this size has advantages and disadvantages that more or less balance out. So for example, with the halfing, this meter ends up undervaluing Lucky and the advantage against frighten (both worth 1 on my scale) Marasmusine (talk) 06:01, 6 June 2018 (MDT)

This Meter is Objectively Bad and its Widespread Use is Bad[edit]

I've brought this up or hinted at this before, but this meter is not something people should rely on. But they do. Even if someone claims it's just a guide, actions of the community speak louder than the words of an individual. Races have been flagged with needsbalance solely because of this meter's score. Others feel compelled to use the race's talk page to score the race they just created.

Arbitrary Scores[edit]

Anyone with nuanced knowledge of racial traits can see the scores applied to different features is insanely imbalanced. Let's take a look at just a few reasonable comparisons.

Natural Armor vs. Mage Armor
  • Natural Armor. "When unarmored, your Armor Class is equal to 13 + your Dexterity modifier." This is worth a whole 2 points.
  • Innate Casting. You can cast the mage armor spell once with this trait, requiring no material components, and you regain the ability to cast it this way when you finish a long rest. Dexterity is your spellcasting ability for this spell. This costs literally 0.5 ½ a point. There's a 4:1 ratio here even when the less expensive one is objectively better in anything but the most extreme scenarios. Unlike Natural Armor, you can cast it on someone else, which can be a huge benefit if you otherwise have a decent way of getting a DC. In this way it remains useful even after the point you get things like barkskin or magic armor.
Minimum AC vs. Armor Proficiency
  • Armor Proficiency. "You have proficiency with {{5e|[Light Armor/ Medium Armor/ Heavy Armor/ Shields]}}." This costs 0.5 ½ point. The biggest problem here of course is that, as written, one could gain heavy armor proficiency for half a point. In the interest of not being a total jerk, I'll assume that's just an oversight. Clearly one would need to be proficient in light armor, then medium armor after that, so heavy armor should cost 10.5 ½ points. That does leave the question of shields, but this is already a tangent.
  • Minimum AC (14). "Your Armor Class cannot be lower than 14." This is worth 10.5 ½ points. Yes, that very mediocre AC is worth that much. Meanwhile, you can get medium armor proficiency for less to get a better AC—even if your Dexterity is negative—and you have far more options in it to further improve that. The only scenario where this would ever be worth more is on a really poorly optimized monk, or if your campaign has absolutely zero funding. But this isn't even the worst offender.
  • Minimum AC (16). "Your Armor Class cannot be lower than 16." This costs a whopping 3 points. That almost makes sense, as it could be pretty useful at low levels. Meanwhile you can get proficiency in all armors and shields for 2 points; even 75 gp chain mail matches 16 AC, let alone wielding a shield or wearing armor that takes investment. If you went the extra munchkin route to get only proficiency in light/medium armor for 1 point, you could still easily match 16 AC if you didn't dump the god stat. Again, this would be useful on a low-level monk, but that's about it.
Natural Weapon vs. Weapon Proficiency
  • Natural Weapon. "You are proficient with your unarmed strikes, which deal 1d6 bludgeoning damage on a hit." WotC once accidentally published something which read, 'you are proficient with your unarmed strikes,' and no one ever forgot it. Everyone is proficient with their unarmed strikes. Anyway, that's beside the point. This is worth 1 point, which at a glance seems reasonable.
  • Weapon Proficiency. "Grants up to four weapon proficiencies." Alright, so let's emulate bladecunning from previous editions. You're proficient with the shortsword, longsword, greatsword, and dagger. Worth half as much (0.5 ½), but better in virtually every way for non monks and far more versatile. And that's with four very related melee weapons. There's nothing to say you couldn't go the elf route and getting a longbow, your most optimized two handed weapon, your most optimized one-handed weapon, and a light weapon to boot. Somehow this seems like it should be worth more than a mediocre 1d6 damage weapon; not less. It's worth noting that this unarmed strike is also relatively static, as you can't buff it with spells like magic weapon, nor replace it as easily with actual magic weapons.
Small vs. Ability Score Decreases
  • If you're Small, the only explicit problem is that you can't wield weapons with the heavy property. That is literally only a problem if you're a barbarian, as every other class makes better use of two light weapons or sword-and-board. Yet this is worth a whole -1 point.
  • If you have a -2 to Dexterity, or even heaven forbid a -4, that is explicitly no difference on this meter. The god stat—the most common save type, used for initiative, used for Stealth, used for AC unless you have plate armor or barkskin, etc., that no one should ever dump—doesn't even matter. But apparently wielding heavy weapons does.
Damage Resistance vs. Environmental Acclimation
  • Damage Resistance. "You have resistance to fire damage." This is somehow worth only 0.5 ½ a point. Wow. Let us consider for a moment, 5e SRD:Armor of Resistance. A rare item that requires attunement. Even +3 armor doesn't require attunement. Even +1 armor is rare. Any magic item which provides damage resistance is at least rare, and I'm fairly certain any that provides it long-term requires attunement. That's not even considering fire second most common and arguably most lethal damage type after BSP (e.g., a spider bite versus a breath attack). I've heard complaints about tieflings being a little combat-breaking because they have this innately. Yet this is only worth 0.5 ½ a point.
  • Poison Resilience. "You have advantage on saving throws against poison, and you have resistance against poison damage." Just throwing this out there, but resisting the most common damage type after BSP with another boon on top of that? Still 0.5 ½ point. Still as much as resisting radiant damage.
  • Environmental Adaptation. "You’re acclimated to [environments of extreme heat], as described in chapter 5 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide." This is also worth exactly 0.5 ½ a point. Why. If you actually read chapter 5 of the Dungeon Master's Guide, having fire resistance automatically grants you tolerance of environments of extreme heat. It's such a negligible part of fire resistance that it almost never gets brought up. This feature is literally a minute part of the one just mentioned, but it costs exactly the same. If you'll excuse the metaphor, it's like paying $500 for the exhaust pipe when you could have bought the entire functioning car for the same price.
Skills vs. Languages
  • An entire skill proficiency? Something so powerful in 5e that playtesting nerfed rogues down from having more than four? 0.5 ½ point.
  • An entire language? Something so useless that entire campaigns are run without it mattering? Something so useless compared to a skill proficiency that 5e doesn't let you interchange them (unlike previous editions) just because the developers don't want you to accidentally gimp your character? Also 0.5 ½ point.
Spells vs. Traits
I already covered this under the "Natural Armor vs. Mage Armor" section above, but let's take some other examples.
  • With a duration of 8 hours, mage armor is 0.5 ½ point. Its benefit, AC of 13+Dex, is 2 points.
  • With a duration of 8 hours, darkvision is 1 point. Its benefit is 0.5 ½ a point.
  • With a mere duration of concentration up to 1 minute, protection from energy is worth 1 0.5 ½ points. Its constant benefit without concentration is worth only a 0.5 ½ point. You could literally gain resistance to three common damage types in that space.
  • With a duration of 1 hour, comprehend languages costs 0.5 ½ point. Being able to understand one very specific language costs the same 0.5 ½ point. This is particularly egregious, as not only do you gain several times the benefit, but comprehend languages can even be cast as a ritual.


Let's take a look at some hypothetical 5e races that have been scored using this meter.

Desert Crystal
Your people have dwelled in the desert for countless generations. The smooth, crystalline surface of your skin reflects light elegantly.
Ability Score Increase. (3) Your Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores all increase by 1. Consider the fact that no class gets optimization from investing in these three scores. In 5e, these are very common dump stats, especially combined with the features noted below.
Desert Dweller. (0.5 ½) You are acclimated to climates of extreme heat, and can tolerate them without difficulty.
Natural Armor. (2) Due to your rigid, crystal-like skin, when you are not wearing armor you have an AC of 13 + your Dexterity modifier. You can use a shield and still gain this benefit.
Extra Language. (0.5 ½) Due to your elemental ancestry and your people's alliance with dwarves, you can speak Common, Dwarvish, and Primordial.

These mediocre traits are worth 6 points, which is already on the high side of the ideal. Maybe the traits would be almost useful for a low-level monk who wants to be social, or perhaps a sorcerer/wizard who doesn't want to waste a slot on mage armor? Maybe?

Deep Merfolk
Your people swim in the deepest depths of the ocean. Surface-dwellers often find eerie your piscine features, your sharp fins, and your jet-black eyes.
Ability Score Increase. (3) Your Strength, Constitution, and Intelligence scores all increase by 1.
Swim Speed. (2 0.5 ½) You have a swim speed of 50 feet.
With literally nothing but subpar ASIs and a reasonable swim speed that will never get used, this is already the "ideal" 50.5 ½, but let's keep going.
Fishing Expertise. (0.5 ½) You add your proficiency bonus to any check made to find aquatic animals.
Amphibious. (0.5 ½) You can breathe both air and water.
Natural Weapons. (1) The fins adorning your arms make for effective sword-like weapons. You can make an attack with one in place of your unarmed strike, which on a hit deals slashing damage equaling 1d6 + your Strength modifier.
Hardened Scales. (10.5 ½) Due to your naturally hard scales accustomed to the deep ocean, your AC cannot fall below 14.

Ah, yeah, that did it. We're overpowered. 9 whole points. Clearly, that was sarcasm. Critical analysis would reveal this race isn't overpowered at all. If anything it's a bit underpowered. All of its features are basically useless if you go towards a martial class, and that's the way its ASIs lean. Hardened Scales and Natural Weapons are useless with even minimum martial class proficiency. Anyone who's played a while knows things like swim speed and amphibious only come up if the DM is throwing you a bone specifically, or decides to do an underwater adventure (in which case everyone will somehow get to be aquatic anyway); these are always going to be pretty mediocre features.

Darkdwarf Halfstout
You are like a halfling, but your ancestry is that of demons, and you were raised and trained in combat by dwarves.
Ability Score Increase. (2) Your Dexterity score increases by 2.
Speed. (-1) Your base walking speed is 20 feet.
Small. (-1) Your size is Small.
Darkvision. (0.5 ½)
Combat Magic. (1) You know the fire bolt cantrip. You can cast mage armor once, and you regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. Since you cast these spells with dexterous ninja hand signs (or something), your casting ability for them is Dexterity.
Dwarven Weapon Training. (1) You are proficient with shields, shortswords, rapiers, longbows, and daggers.
Demon Wings. (1) Due to your dark ancestry, you have wings you can deploy or absorb into your body at will. You have a flying speed equal to your base walking speed, but you cannot fly while you are wearing medium or heavy armor. (Obviously, that doesn't matter for a +2 Dex race with innate mage armor.) Due to your wingspan(?), you must be in a space wide enough to accommodate your wingspan to fly (?). Your wingspan is equal to twice your height (?).
At this point, the race is already making me cringe, but it's only a 30.5 ½. Clearly, it needs to be buffed a little more.
Radiant Vulnerability. (-1) Due to your grimdarkness, you are vulnerable to radiant damage.
Dwarven Digging. (1) Between your dwarven teaching and natural demonic claws, you can burrow like no other. You have a burrow speed of 15 feet.
Extra Skills. (1) You are proficient in the Perception skill and the Stealth skill.
This is still only worth 6 points. That's still within the recommended range. Let's go further and add a couple more.
More Combat Magic. (1) You can cast invisibility once, and regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest.
More Skills. (1) You are proficient in the Insight skill and the Acrobatics skill.
There we go, now it's "balanced." 60.5 ½ points is far from the absolute maximum, after all. Needless to say, it was ridiculous before even reaching this point.
Sarcasm: A suitable nerf might be to get rid of those last two lines and add Gnome Cunning, which would bring it down to an even 6. Ideal score. Totally balanced.
Skill Monkey
You're an obnoxious know-it-all.
Ability Score Increase. (2) Your Dexterity score increases by 2.
Speed. (-0.5 ½) Your base walking speed is 25 feet.
Small. (-1) Your size is Small.
Darkvision. (0.5 ½)
Extra Skills. (5) You are proficient in 10 different skills.
This is literally worth 6 points. Ideal score, right there. Even without the ridiculous point reductions, it's still 70.5 ½, which is within the acceptable range.
Celestial Vampire Blob
Ability Score Increase. (2) Your Constitution score increases by 2.
Speed. (-0.5 ½) Your base walking speed is 25 feet.
Small. (-1) Your size is Small.
Blob Resistance. (40.5 ½) You have resistance to acid, bludgeoning, cold, fire, lightning, piercing, slashing, and thunder damage.
Poison Resilience. (0.5 ½) You have resistance to poison damage, and advantage on saving throws against poison.
Weak Mind and Weak Soul. (-2) You have vulnerability to psychic damage and radiant damage.
This is worth a mere 30.5 ½ points. Even removing all the ridiculous point reductions, it's still 7, which is almost "ideal."

In Summary[edit]

These arbitrary point values are all over the place. A "Natural Armor" of 12+Dex (literally useless for anything but the worst monk ever made) is the same as being able to fly at-will. It's literally easier to find flaws in this than it is to find good measures. I don't understand why any intelligent and informed person believes this meter to be of any practical use. Even if it's solely used as a rough guideline, it's terrible even at that. You would almost be better just tallying a point for every feature a race has that isn't painfully broken. As simple as it is, Marasmusine's Meter is far better to use as a guideline, if you even think meters are a good idea.

I haven't touched on this yet, but needless to say any meter doesn't consider how well features work together. A flavorful desert dwelling might have heat resistance, +2 Cha and +2 Wis, and proficiency with scimitars; but that's the same as a vampelf half-demon with fire resistance, a +4 Dex, and proficiency with heavy crossbows, rapiers, greataxes, and nets.


Please stop using this meter, even as a guideline. It would be best if critical analysis was used instead, but if you must use a meter at least use a much better one. - Guy (talk) 07:20, 9 June 2018 (MDT)

This meter is a useful tool for helping to judge a race's power level at a glance. As you've shown above, the meter clearly isn't perfect, and the math breaks down when people "game the system" and optimize their race for a specific score. This is why I keep saying that the meter is a guideline, not a rule, and that it's important to use your own judgement alongside it. If your hypothetical examples were actual races, my criticism of them would probably involve only a passing mention of this meter, as these races break the scale and have a score that doesn't really correlate with their actual power level. However, in most cases this meter is a useful tool. — Geodude Chatmod.png (talk | contribs | email)‎‎ . . 09:47, 9 June 2018 (MDT)
As I feel I demonstrated, it isn't even useful for judging a race's capabilities at a glance. The first two examples weren't "gaming the system"; they were reasonable examples of reasonable races that completely fell apart under this meter. A +2 Dex Small flying race shouldn't be less egregious than a +2 Int Medium swimming race, and that's beyond basic.
I don't feel it is useful. I don't see how. In the time it takes to look up scores, do the math, and write it in a table in the talk page, anyone could have compared it to a first party race or two and made a better judgement. Someone with experience could make a better judgment in seconds. I find it is misleading more than it is useful.
But then again, that response part of the problem I pointed out at the very start. Even if you or anyone else claim this is best used only as a guideline, or that it isn't perfect, time and time again it's thrown up as if it is definitive. People treat hard numbers and decimals as if they are exact, but as we both know, this meter is lightyears away from being exact.
As I closed with, I don't believe any meter should be used. If there are those who insist a meter is a useful tool, then as I pleaded, please use a better one. Marasmusine has been working on his meter. It's the lesser of two evils by a wide berth. - Guy (talk) 10:09, 9 June 2018 (MDT)
While there are some similar "scorings" with the two meters, I think some major differences are:
  • Small size is not a factor, nor is 25' speed. Basically nothing should reduce the score except less-than-expected ability scores.
  • The worth of a damage resistance depends on how common it is
  • I've noted that some related some traits should be evaluated together if they are closely related.
  • I'm doing my best to explain why traits have particular scores, instead of exhaustively listing everything.
I do understand that a meter is not a strict tool for balance, and I should write more about this. Guy touched on some aspects of this. For example, a race shouldn't have traits that entirely benefit just one kind of class.
But also, I'm sure it's not a coincidence that all the PHB races score 4 or 4.5 on my scale.
The Musicus scale varies wildly with values between 4 and 8, and in my opinion undervalues and overvalues many things. Marasmusine (talk) 13:18, 9 June 2018 (MDT)
I stopped fighting this directly a long time ago, because GD is of the opinion that the widespread use and enforcement (yes, enforcement) of James Musicus' meter is not detrimental to the wiki. And the people who use it are set in their ways, so there's nothing we can do about it.
However, while I agree with you overall, I disagree on a few points: the power of energy resistance depends largely on the campaign run. If the DM is running a campaign in an ice world, cold damage will be widespread. And so on. Secondly, you say that languages don't matter because most DMs gloss over that. That again is up to each DM.
P.S. You win the Musicus' Meter 9 point race challenge!--GamerAim Chatmod.png (talk) 16:52, 9 June 2018 (MDT)
I understand your points about each campaign being different, but that's true about almost anything, even something as fundamental AC. The final boss's weakness is basket weaving, and everything before it uses spells or ice breath instead of attacks. The best we can do is generalize, and rely on the material that is most likely to be used.
P.S. ...Thanks? I still don't understand the point of that page. - Guy (talk) 17:09, 9 June 2018 (MDT)
I don't know why you think that material is most likely to be used?
P.S. The point of that page is that James Musicus' meter isn't a good gauge of balance.--GamerAim Chatmod.png (talk) 17:25, 9 June 2018 (MDT)
Actually, the point of the page was to just have a bit of fun with fellow discodians. If you wanna read deeper into it, that's up to ya'll. —ConcealedLightChatmod.png (talk) 00:20, 12 June 2018 (MDT)
Actually you did it in direct response to my challenge which was made to prove that James Musicus' meter isn't a good gauge of balance, but if you wanna read deeper into it, that's up to ya'll too :) --GamerAim Chatmod.png (talk) 05:30, 12 June 2018 (MDT)
...What material? I feel like there was a misunderstanding. I can't help but feel like this is an irrelevant tangent. Of all the points I was trying to make, I wasn't even arguing that different damage resistances should have different arbitrary numerical values in a meter I don't even want to see used in the first place. - Guy (talk) 17:36, 9 June 2018 (MDT)
I am of the opinion, and have always been of the opinion, that if people want to use the meter then they may. It is not enforced, rather its usage needs to be uphelp when questioned. The pages themselves do not have a requirement for a meter. --Green Dragon (talk) 23:42, 10 June 2018 (MDT)
for any more proof, with inate casting at 0.5 per level, you could cast frickin wish and still be one of the “weaker” races. PickleJarPete (Talk) 2:18, 7 February Thrusday 2019 (CST)


Just noticed that the rock gnomes constitution bonus says it has a 2 point cost.

Thanks. I've corrected it. —ConcealedLightChatmod.png (talk) 09:28, 22 July 2018 (MDT)

Noticed the criticism towards the gauge, if I may say a couple things that may help slightly... innate magic costing 1/2 a point only applying to cantrips, so mage armor at the very least would be worth 1 and 1/2pts. Swim speed being poorly scored is definetly a genuine point, perhaps every 10-15ft is half a point? A class not being very good with a specific race doesn’t seem like a bad thing to me, if not even a good thing. Yeah it’s limmiting, but it adds a bit more character and purpose to the race, as long as it’s not designed specifically to cheese the system. The size not being important at all isn’t entirely true, isn’t it easier to grapple something that’s a size smaller? I could be wrong, but I’d make Small only a -1/2 and tiny -1 to -1 and 1/2 I comment also because I’m trying to do something similar to this gauge and was hoping to use it as a base for my own plans. But for me the more balanced this meter is the better. So how can it be fixed?

Damage resistances being all over the place is a fair argument, so why not show how valuable each one is based on the average amount of times the damage type shows up in the monster manual? It would be hard but it would help I think.

Still getting used to typing on here, so I’m just CreeperWatcher23 (talk)+

Rating spellcasting needn't be complicated. At Marasmusine_Meter_(5e_Guideline) I simply say that any spell is worth 0.5. For spells of 2nd level or higher, you need a character level as though you were a half spellcaster (which puts 5th level spells as the maximum). If you are making your own gauge, I recommend looking at the Marasmusine Meter instead of this one. Marasmusine (talk) 06:58, 18 July 2019 (MDT)


I think I broke the Musicus Meter.

--Flamestarter (talk) 15:19, 17 May 2020 (MDT)

Home of user-generated,
homebrew pages!