Quickly – why focus on combat for my character study?
Also quickly: because every D&D game I’ve played in has featured or focused on combat. It’s a staple of the genre, and has been since I started playing in the early 1980s.
It’s not the end-all/be-all of RPGing, of course. Traps and other skill-based or character roleplaying and social interaction, whether with the environment or other players or NPCs are a huge part of the game as well. But it takes a rare person and group, in my experience, to be happy with “and now I’ll take no action or participate for the next hour as the fight happens.” Especially if playing a game with two to four combats per session.
So I started with looking at how effective I can make each class in combat – giving and avoiding harm.
From there, if you choose to give up combat capability for other strengths (buffing, trailblazing, survival, social interaction, investigation, scouting), useful roles that can make or break a game, you know what you’ve given up, and how much. Heck, you probably don’t even look at it as giving anything up – and you’d be right.
But with the change to 5e, I wasn’t sure what combat effective meant. I noted that certain classes (like rogues) seemed to be the real damage dealers, while fighters did low damage each turn, and just stood there taking it. +Peter V. Dell’Orto had made the same observation.
I think I’ve mostly shown that doesn’t have to be true, with the right focus, for fighters. But it took this exercise to figure it out for me.