So if the rifts weren't designed to challenge a balanced party we resume progression towards a balanced single player experience with regard to encounter design which I'm hoping will somewhat match the engaging level of challenge for all classes that was achieved with Diablo 2.
When the Diablo 2 Lords of Destruction expansion was introduced most hype was focused on the new classes introduced but what became more abundantly clear was the most engaging aspect of character building was the new synergy systems implemented when +to all skills was applied exponentially increased character efficacy offensively and defensively.
Items like SOJ were so sought after and powerful for all characters they became the defacto currency for Diablo 2 trading.
This exponential increase in power well represented with casters with the multiplier of Caster Level acquired through merely leveling a Caster at each ER and items designed specifically to put starch into the white robes and pointy hats of the Arcane Society.
(if playing a caster is your preferred experience)
Too much unnecessary development time has been spent overcompensating for some perceived inadequacy for classes with a toolset capable of doing this to the highest rewarding boss to date.
(Solo Bossified Ex 8 Belphegor Rift Kill by Unequipped Sorc/Pal)
On top of this, an unnecessary amount of development time has been spent trying to work outside the limitations of the engine to provide further scaling in an effort to see bigger numbers, ultimately leading to more complex and buggy systems.
Inflating the numbers in favor of one archetype or another is ultimately an uninteresting, uncreative and an unproductive means to create an interesting an optimal experience for the players and ultimately the encounter designers.
Your character either has big enough numbers or they are invalidated. Telling people they should have played a caster to begin with is not a satisfying experience for a majority of players.
Similar to the roots of the Beholder Anti-Magic Cone Problem, encounter design that is subjectively focused on complete invalidation of character playstyles has spilled over to item design in the form of status immunities further highlighting the need for more interesting tools for both players and encounter designers.
(Before Incubus Encounter)
Representing the apex of martial incentives is the current set system. It provides just enough power and defense because of the immunities they provide against the limited toolsets available to encounter designers.
(Customized Incubus version of Expose Weakness one application -9AC reduced and pierces Immunity to AC Reduction from Thug/Swash Set)
With Brumm's ability to create tools that can override status immunity, it's become increasingly clear the current Iteration of set design represents the end of character development for characters who are dependent on them for playability. It remains the only option for creating a relevant martial character.
I believe this is the most contributing factor in player retention and general frustration with the server when first joining. Players love martial classes as their first foray into a new server. They play, get hooked on the challenge level, buy into the sets as a perceived necessary part of progression, then generally leave after finding the lack of development into martials and the massive power gap between them and casters that's only abated with current set design.
“At the point where there is an obvious choice, then there really is no depth to that(design)”
Herding new players with all the various constraints required to use and optimize the current sets limits the players of personal choice in creating a functional character.
The current trend of unique item design geared towards martials is also very hit or miss. These can really only be used by casters because of set restraints on martials.
Brumm's greatest contributions to Martials have been spending time creating amazing quality of life patchwork feats and animations like Shadow Strike and Caster's Bane trying to bring them into the Diablo 2 LOD paradigm of having feats and attributes that can scale with item design. Shadow Strike alone gives Sneak attack based martials far more maneuverability than either of the above uniques as a tool that can help them from being overrun and move out of oppressive AoE when surrounded by melee mobs similar to teleport at a much higher investment.
(no actual cooldown on Teleport in game)
With Brumms latest deep dives into creating actual feats that martial classes can perform and the development of passive feats like Epic Combat Endurance and Combat Lethality we now have a clear handle on martial power that can more easily be balanced and scale with item design in measures that are as appealing as spell damage and caster level are for casters.
(Epic Combat Endurance needs an addition of base HP for martials to bridge the gap between Epic Warding and Healing Capabilities of other casters)
Once reins are in place we can begin to reevaluate item design for martials that represent real progress for character development and not dilute drop tables.
After enough testing and Iteration the handle for caster level / spell power and martial combat Endurance/Lethality could be united under one powerful modification similar to Diablo 2 +to all skill that can more easily be implemented and allow for future scaling. However for purposes of this thought experiment and testing the mods are split in part 3.