Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Poll Result: Striker

Time for a a long overdue response to the most recent Eleven Foot Poll, which shows that you like playing leaders a lot, but strikers ever so slightly more.

Roles, of course, are something new to 4th Edition. Or at least, the delineation of roles as an explicit design goal is new. The aim is for every class to have something meaningful to do in combat, and with that in mind classes are split up into Leaders (who heal, and provide buffs and other benefits to allies), Controllers (who specialise in area of effect damage, debuffs, and enemy positioning), Defenders (the game's "tanks", who manage enemy target prioritisation and aim to absorb the majority of enemy attacks), and Strikers.

Strikers are probably the simplest of the four roles. Their job is to do damage. It's easy to measure whether you're a good striker - the more damage you do, the better you're performing.

The original Player's Handbook presented three Strikers - the Ranger and Rogue from the martial power source, and the Warlock as an arcane alternative. Subsequent expansions have added the Avenger (divine), Barbarian (primal), Sorceror (arcane) and Monk (psionic).

That's seven of the current (I think) 20 classes. Over a third of the playable class options are Strikers, which may have skewed the poll a little. (Leaders get 6, Controllers get 3, and Defenders get 4, for reference).

Is it accident that Strikers are so dispoproportionately common? Probably not. You'll note that our poll numbers aren't far off the overall class distribution, which suggests that the role proportions more or less line up with the distribution of play styles across the player base. Classes appear to have been assigned roles in proportion to the demand for that role.

So why do people like Strikers so much? The simplicity is an obvious factor. It's nice to know when you're doing your job well. On the surface, Strikers are the most visibly effective part of the team - newcomers to the game can clearly see Strikers doing more damage, while the benefits of the other classes might not be as immediately obvious.

Another issue is that strikers tend to have a high chance to hit. They're less susceptible to the frustrations of seeing a turn wasted on a miss, which makes them that much more enjoyable as a whole.

It's probably significant too that Rangers, Rogues and Avengers are all, flavour-wise, "outsiders". They're easily cast as loners and antiheroes who don't play by the rules and are secretly awesome. As detrimental as that kind of character can be to a game, there's no real question that it's an archetype that roleplayers love. Roleplaying has never been mainstream, and so a lot of players really identify with flavour that sees outcasts being both empowered and valued. It's basic wish fulfilment and it's what D&D does well.

What about you? What is it that you love about playing strikers? Or alternatively, why do the other roles work for you? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Xtian said...

I think there is also an interesting connection between Leaders and Strikers in that, at least in my experience, those are the two roles that play the best together. The best strikers are the ones who are able to coordinate with their leaders to get the best buffs when the enemy is most vulnerable and the player is using their best attack. The difference between a Ranger's Twin Strike spam and their nova round with TacLord support is staggering.

Perhaps the poll respondents are also all very cooperative players?

Grae BG said...

I haven't noticed a particular synergy between my leader players and my striker players. However, this may be due my GM-ing style.

I find my players to be a bit overpowered... it's very hard to instill the fear of death in them, so lately I've been throwing them up against encounters one or two levels higher than them as the bread-and-butter standard fights through a dungeon, and the boss fights are 3-4 levels higher. In those cases, my leader players are scrambling to keep the defenders alive, so a striker-leader synergy doesn't happen as readily.

Before I started to crank the game up, the fights were so easy that a striker-leader synergy wasn't necessary.

Where was the monk class published?

Anonymous said...

The Monk Class isn't published yet, but there is a playtest in one of the Dragon Magazines (I think issue 375, correct me if I'm wrong). The class will be featured fully in the upcoming PHB III; oddly enough, they use psionics as a power source.

I for myself love playing strikers, above all my Ranger. He is just a mean, sturdy, high damage, novaing, mobile beast, who has the potential to grease a single elite in two rounds, with a bit of support. I found the better synergies with our fighter though, mainly because I still haven't figured out what our leader (a Shaman, just recently introduced into the group) is able to provide me with. The Fighter on the other hand tends to draw the fire away from me and the Rogue, which allows us to slice them without fear of retribution. Also we frequently get combat advantage or the occasional nice debuff from him.

nowiwantmydmg said...

Leaders are awesome because you're in control. You basically dictate the ebb and flow of the battle: who gets healing, who gets buffs, who moves where, extra attacks, initiative boosts, enemy debuffs are all under the purview of the leader. No other role has as big of a say in the outcome of a battle. People like being in control, I suspect that's part of the popularity.

My favourite class to play so far is fighter though, I love the image of standing your ground no matter what, taking wave after wave of enemy blows and shrugging them off like the proverbial rock at sea.

Randy said...

I wonder if people love a role and then choose a class that has that role, or love a class, based on theme or visuals or prior editions, and then translate that into a love of its role?

I see about each in equal measure in our group, I believe.

Oscar said...

I personally prefer strikers because of the wide variety of character options the many striker classes can provide for you and the ability to play very mobile, skill based characters. Strikers also happen to get a really good skill selection which makes them useful outside of combat as well as inside combat.

Kelly Davis said...

I think the striker's appeal is that they are not responsible for anyone else's safety. A good choice for learning 4E. If a striker doesn't perform his role well, the only thing that hurts is the party's damage output. Any of the other roles shirk their responsibilities and characters start dropping.

Our party's leader does a great job at his role. He's moving us around, setting up flanks, giving us bonuses. Same is true with our Defender.

Greg Tannahill said...

All great points! It's very tempting to just write posts with no content that invite comments; the real meat is often in what you guys throw in after I publish.

I have to say personally since starting 4E my experiences as a player (not a DM) have been a Cleric, a Fighter and an Invoker, so no particular pattern there. I picked the Cleric because I wanted a healer-type and it was the most archetypal; a picked a Fighter because I wanted to play a defender and fighters seemed more effective than paladins. I picked the Invoker because at first glance they seemed rubbish and I wanted to see if I was right. (I wasn't, Invokers kick ass.)

hvg3 said...

>>Another issue is that strikers tend to have a high chance to hit.

Apart from the hint back to a previous muchly discussed topic, what makes you think strikers have a higher chance to hit? I personally don't see it - apart from the Avenger, of course :)

A current game at level 11 has the warlock at +11, the wizard at +12, the fighter at +12, and the bard at +10. And the bard is usually flanking (so +2), and uses the "guiding strike", to give himself and the fighter another +2 to hit from then on.

I do love strikers, though I do find it a bit annoying when they bring out other powers, for other sources, that do better damage than the strikers power. (Invoker "Hand of Radiance" from DP does ~50% more damage on average than Wizard's magic missile, and ~35% more damage than the warlock's Eldritch blast, with curse damage).

@ Randy: an interesting question :)
If purely choosing a character, then I will start with class, and see where that takes me. When creating for a party, I will often look to see what the party is lacking, then go to role, and choose a class from there. So, I prefer to choose a class, but will go for a role if it is needed.

Anonymous said...

Wow, is the wizard really as bad as they say? Is that a factor in how little attention controllers get?

Grae BG said...

hvg3: strikers often times make attacks against defenses other than AC. Your warlock is +11, but he's going for Fortitude, Reflex, or Will, which is usually 2-4 points lower than AC, depending on what you're fighting and suchlike, so really he's at a +13-15-ish range.

GregT said...

@hvg3 - The Warlock's at +11 but targeting NADs. I'm not immediately keen on running the maths again but my understanding is you'll usually find Rogues and Rangers running at about +1 above defenders before taking into account combat advantage. Rangers are also notable for having Twin Strike as an at-will which averages out their chances of hitting. (I concede that multiple attacks on an at-will is an advantage controllers also share.)

@Anonymous - I personally don't like the wizard. The spell memorisation mechanic seems like an unwarranted holdover from previous editions and barring the illusionist build they're not terribly effective in their theoretical role of controller. Invokers kick some serious ass, though.

Zinovia said...

Laying down the hurt is often what will get your group through the fight the quickest, so having multiple strikers is good if you can manage it. The other roles enable your group to stay in the fight longer, but they can't carve their way through the HP nearly as effectively. With a lot of options for striker classes, a group of 5 or 6 is likely to have two or three different kinds of strikers. Besides, it's fun blowing stuff up!

Controllers are the least popular because there was only one class option available until quite recently. Besides, nothing controls an enemy's actions quite like leaving him laying on the ground at negative hit points. The controllers do get to impress everyone with their efficient minion-sweeping abilities, although it's a bit situational. I also think it's harder to explain to new players precisely what it is that controllers due. Even WotC didn't seem entirely sure for awhile.

Not that I don't like controllers. I am playing a predator druid in our family game, and have enjoyed the character so far. Charging up to 16 with a move/charge lets my character really get around the battlefield quickly. Area spells are fun too.

Synergy with leaders can work well with any class, provided the players are willing to take advantage of it. I saw the taclord in our main campaign set up a foe, and the swordmage declined to hit it (with a bonus) and instead went off to hit something else. Hrmm.

Kelly Davis said...

The one thing I have to be constantly aware of is my rogue's low HP and smaller amount of daily surges. I need to know when to get out, and with the way my powers make successively greater whacks (Ruthless Ruffian), I tend to want to stay around.

Xtian said...

I disagree with posters like Kelly and Zinovia. They argue that strikers are not responsible for anyone else, and Leaders can just give bonuses to anyone, because the battle will be better no matter who gets the bonus. I don't see parties like that functioning in the most tactically optimal way.

The most important turns for any given fight are the first few turns (or maybe the first few turns after dangerous enemies enter the fight). For any given encounter with a decent number of enemies no Defender is going to be able to "hold aggro" on everyone and no Controller is going to be able to lockdown everyone. The Striker, with the help of the Leader, needs to quickly reduce the number of enemies so that your party's control elements (Defender + Controller) can gain command of the rest of the fight.

If Strikers are only concerned about doing damage to the enemy team as opposed to the correct target, or Leaders are only concerned about buffing the party as opposed to the correct target, then it's easy to end up with a bunch of bloodied monsters running amok through your lines.

Typically Leaders are able to heal as minor actions, and Defenders and Controllers each have ways to protect themselves for a small period of time. Leaders should be able to spend a few terms coordinating their Standard actions with Strikers to provide the most offensive buffs to the most offensive classes in order to eliminate enemy threats as quickly as possible.

People talk all the time about how some 4e combats can become inevitable long before all of the monsters are dead; the monsters have no chance in hell to win even through they still have a lot of HPs left. Parties are doing well tactically when they achieve this inevitability as quickly as possible. Well-coordinated Strikers and Leaders are the key to achieving this inevitability.

Maelora said...

It's simply 'rock star syndrome', really.

4E is all about being 'awesome', and nobody is more 'awesome' than the ones who actually do the killing. The game is about the limbs flying, the heads hitting the floor, and nobody does that as well as strikers.

Essentially, they are the 'Lead Singer' in the band, the glamour role. Everyone else is their support, the talented bassist or drummer who is essential to the sound, but also the ones casual fans can't tell you the name of.

What sums up strikers for me is what a long-time player said when he gave up on 4E in disgust. He was trying to replicate a character, a halfling thief, he'd played before in earlier editions. He said he 'liked him better when he was a thief and not a fighter'.

hvg3 said...

@ AbsitFlux and Greg:

yeah, I realise they target different stats, but the wizard has a higher bonus, and is still targetting reflex, as is the warlock.

The fighter does target AC, which is typically thought to be +2 higher, so would seem to have a -1 penalty.

But, he has also not focused on hitting yet. Next level, he will get +3 to hit (1/2 level, expertise feat, and +1 to strength). This will happily give him the +2 to 'equate' with the warlock, and the wizard will still be in front.

The warlock player actually switched from Ranger, because he was always missing. With twin strike.

(But I feel taht was more due to bad luck, than any mechanical difference :) )

Grae BG said...

Well, let's look at average damage per round of a level 8 character using an at-will power from the PHB1, with a level 8 magic implement or magic weapon. This would be right after the end of the sour spot in leveling, so this is when the difference between classes should become apparent. Let's look at Warlock vs. Wizard vs. Fighter.

For the sake of argument, each had an 18 in their primary ability score and 16 in their secondary at level 1, which is a middle-of-the-road set of scores, so they're at 20 (18) now. This provides a +11 (+10) attack bonus (half level = 4, ability = 5(4), level 8 item = 2) for the Wizard and the Warlock, and a +14 (+13) attack for the Fighter (from weapon proficiency +3 with a longsword).

Say the fighter is sword-and-board with a longsword doing with 1[W] = 1d8, and is using Tide of Iron... say the Warlock is using good old Eldtritch Blast... and the wizard is using Magic Missile. Further, let's assume that the monster has an AC 3 higher than the rest of it's defenses.

Then the fighter, attacks with +14 vs. AC, the warlock with a +11 vs. Reflex, and the wizard with a +11 vs. Reflex. So, if the AC of the monster is 3 higher than the other defenses, the fighter and the warlock and the wizard all have the same chance to hit. However, the Fighter will do, on average, 11.5 damage per successful attack (1d8 + 5 abil + 2 weapon), the warlock will do 13.5 (1d10 + 5 abil + 2 implement), and the wizard will do 12 (2d4 + 5 abil + 2 implement) damage.

Seems about right to me... although it's worth noting that the Warlock would do closer to 10.5 on average with his other at-wills choices, but would enjoy extra damage if certain conditions are fulfilled. The wizard would do similarly low damage using his other at-wills, but would enjoy extra controller goodness with each one. The fighter, on the other hand, does about the same average damage regardless of at-will, but if he upgrades to, say, a heavy flail, his damage would be comparable to the warlock. This is pretty standard from what I've seen - most defenders can sacrifice a bit of AC to do striker-like damage.

But it's worth noting as well that different types of monsters have different defenses. Martial characters will do proportionately more damage to Brutes and Artillery than Divine, Arcane, and some Primal characters, whereas the latter shine when fighting Skirmishers, Soldiers, Lurkers, and Controllers... Soldiers especially so.

The right feats can make all the difference, too, but similar feats are available to different classes, so I think, all things being equal this is a pretty straightforward ordering of controller -> defender -> striker, and leader probably fits in between controller and defender.

Perhaps your Wizard was more of a specialist than your other characters...

GregT said...

@hvg3 - Are your stats using the expanded implement proficiency/expertise/mastery rules from Dragon and Arcane Power?

Zinovia said...

I don't think any of the roles should run around willy nilly with no regard for what the rest of the party is doing or which foe is the most important to eliminate or lock down. The entire group needs to coordinate their actions in order to be as effective as possible.

In the case with the sword mage declining to use a bonus granted by the taclord, the sword mage is not the primary defender, but is built more along striker lines. The fighter in the group had already pinned a couple foes up against a wall, and the warlock had immobilized the nasty elite with no ranged attacks - so they ignored that one for the moment. At that point when the taclord set up another foe (that was trying to eat the rogue), the sword mage would have done well to hit it. Instead, she took off after something else - a symptom of the "This is my monster; go fight your own" mentality left over in part from previous editions (in the case of this player). As an aside, the player of the taclord is the most tactics-savvy player in the group, and the sword mage probably the least.

I agree that leaders should usually be buffing the strikers to help them land their impressive encounter and daily powers, but it's still situational. Everyone can benefit from those buffs, and sometimes it's more important to impose a status effect to control a foe - so the leader buffs the controller. It's group coordination that matters, not every man for himself.

Xtian said...

@ Zinovia -

That's fair. Any plan is always subject to change depending on circumstances. Plus, sometimes "Striker" may include classes from other roles built to be a striker.

However, I still think that parties want to maximize enemy dead bodies in the first few turns, not because of any "rock star syndrome" (Only 4e emphasizes killing monsters? Really?), but because dead monsters don't threaten the party.

hvg3 said...

@ Greg - what specifically do you mean by "expanded [rules]" from Dragon / AP?

@ AbsitFlux - some big assumptions there :) Most notably, you missed the warlock's curse, as what warlock would ever attack an uncursed target? :p

Twang said...

Two comments here. First, a lot is said about optimal fighting synergies and tactics, and yes that is a big part of 4ed. Hopefully this is not at the expense of character, however. Perhaps the much maligned swordmage was displaying the character's particular hatred of that type of monster, or showing some disrespect for the 'allways tells me what to do' taclord.
Secondly, I am playing a fighter, and loving it. Why? It is all about me. I am in charge of the fight. I hit the big bad, stop it hitting the rest of my squishy friends, and deal some impressive damage. I combine with the striker to slaughter enemies even better. The leader keeps me around with healing and buffs, and the controller tries to make sure all the baddies go through me. You want awesome rock star status? It is all about me, baby.

Adam said...

I personally prefer playing the defender. Specifically, the Fighter. There's just something inherently satisfying about marching into a dungeon and single-handedly neutralizing everything that tries to get into melee range with the party, and doing it through sheer combat skill. There's also the fact that they're the most solo-game friendly of the PHB I classes (And as that's all my player's own, that's usually what they use.) Sure, the Paladin might be able to heal, but he can't use that on himself. A fighter's minor dual-role in striker? Immediately benefits him, specifically as well as the rest of the party.