Monday, June 23, 2008

Ignorant Wizards and Brilliant Fighters

Odyssey is our canary in the 4e mine these days:

It's also got me thinking that the wizard may now actually be the least complicated class to run. Everyone has the same power scheme, and if the wizard has a good team backing her up she has a lot less to juggle than the rest of the group. Which is weird, historically, but I may start recommending that the new players play wizards and ask the veterans to play defenders. Crazy edition.

I found that interesting when I read it last night, but today, I ran across this post over at

Group and I played through the first two KotS encounters last night and our "Tank" couldn't "hold aggro." What's up with that? As far as I could tell, the Pally did everything "by the book." He charged into the fray, he marked and marked and marked again.

But the freaking Kobolds just didn't care! They were all "-2 to hit? Whatever." And then they went ahead and killed the rest of the party!

I could gripe that maybe his mere +1 Charisma mod wasn't threat enough to make the damage from ignoring him worthwhile but, really, the point of the Defender isn't to actually "hold aggro", right? The point is to make it not worth the enemy's while to attack someone else. But the -2 to hit still left the rest of hte party as squishy enough targets that the Kobolds attacked us anyway.

And this was after the author, playing a wizard, had whacked most of the die-on-any-hit mooks.

The strikers have a fairly easy job, in that they just have to get into position to maximize their damage. This might mean maneuvering behind a foe, or flanking them. The "leader" classes (probably better called "support") just need to be in a position to bolster those who need it the most, which will probably keep them running between the strikers and the defenders. But the defenders are the ones who really need to exercise their tactical acumen. They need to both shield the softer members of the party (especially the wizards and warlocks) while also supporting the strikers. Granted, the battles in Keep on the Shadowfell are a defender's nightmare: completely open terrain with lots of highly mobile kobolds. The primary job of the defender is to fix the enemy, pin them in place so they can't go where the PCs don't want them to go, and making them vulnerable to the strikers' attacks. 4e kobolds just refuse to be pinned.

All the wizard has to do is stay away from enemies while bringing down the pain whenever they bunch up too much. It's a far easier task than the one faced by fighters and paladins. It might be more challenging than the warlock's job, or the archer version of the ranger, who both seem to be snipers now.


Natalie said...

Incidentally, that's why the adventure says the dragonshield's tactics in the first few encounters are to attack the toughest looking melee character. Those are supposed to be teaching encounters, and while the open terrain makes moving less complicated, it also gives kobolds a huge advantage, which causes problems if it's fully exploited.

It's still ridiculous, though, because these are level 1 and 2 encounters. They shouldn't be as deadly as they've been so far, but maybe it's just system unfamiliarity.

trollsmyth said...

I really think a lot of the "toughness" of PCs is built into synergies. If you don't really understand how the rogue's special attacks work, then the warlord doesn't know when to give the rogue a boost to movement, or an extra attack. Also, if you don't really understand the difference between "shifting" and a standard move, trying to get a handle on those damned kobolds can be a hair-pulling experience, I'm sure.

- Brian