Thoughts – PHB 4e – Chapter 4

Chapter 4: Character Classes

I’m now more than half way through the book… 🙂

Let me preface this chapter with this: I should not even attempt to compare anything about fourth edition to anything that has come before, as this is a completly different game.  Almost all of the mechanics and structure are similar, but different enough to make you have to really look into them.  Let me repeat… This is a different game.  I don’t know if I will like it as much as I like D&D (I will think of this as a game which will just be known as 4e), but it seems pretty well put together.

I did read all of the powers throughout the chapter.  To be honest with you, I don’t know if I needed to.  They seem interesting, and I think it will help me determine what is powerful or not on a second read through.  But I can’t remember most of what I read as it was all very similar variations througout… DO x times your weapon damage with this affect…  I probably should have just read through the first five levels or so of each class and skimmed the rest.  Oh well.

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Well, first off as described earlier there are eight classes: Cleric, Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Warlock, Warlord, Wizard.  Each has a specific role and is split into either Defender, Striker, Controller or Leader.  The Defenders are supposed to have a good amount of defense and their abilities will often rely on forcing people to attack them instead of other allies.  Strikers are those either dart in or strike from afar to do large amounts of damage to a single target.  Controllers are supposed to effect a large number of targets to either help control the battlefield or to strike for some damage to a lot of enemies.  Finally, Leaders are supposed to help give their allies benefits through tactics or healing.

Each of the classes have four paragon paths that you can start to follow at 11th level (except the warlock who has 3).  These paragon paths help to try to define a more specific role or attitude for your character.  They also give you a few more class features, with at least one dealing with extra effects that happen when you use an action point.  They also give you three new powers as you go up in level (I believe most, if not all, have it so that two are at 12th level and the third at 16th).

After all of the classes are defined the chapter also goes into epic destinies.  There are not that many listed (Archmage, Deadly Trickster, Demigod and Eternal Seeker) and I don’t know how useful or thought out these really are.  They are more of a way to draw towards an end-game situation to determine what happens to your character upon reaching 30th level and completing your "Destiny Quest".

The beginning of the chapter goes through how to read the class definitions.  Afterwards, it starts to define a glossary of terms for the powers and how the powers they are described.  It tells you how you determine what types of damage are in the power and how you would deal with powers that do multiple damage types to creatures who have resistance or immunity to one of those damage types.  It also details what is meant by at-will, encounter and daily.  In other words, when you can use your powers and the amount of rest you need before they reset. 

There are several other keywords that are associate with the powers, such as the power source, damage type, effect type, ccessories, implements, and weapon. 

Following the keywords, the power defines what type of action it is.  The actions that are "Immediate" require a trigger for the power to be used, such as an ally being hit or an adjacent enemy moving away from you.

On the same line as the action type is the power’s attack type and range.  The power’s attack type falls into melee,  ranged,  close, area and  personal.

Following the power type and attack type, the power description lists target(s), attack,  hit,  miss,  secondary taget(s) and attack(s),  effect,  conjuration,  zones and  sustain.

Finally the character classes are listed.  Each class is about 13 – 15 pages.  The first two to two and a half pages are used to list its traits (role, power source, key abilities, armor and weapon proficiencies, implement(s), bonus to defense, hit points at first level and beyond, healing surges a day, trained skills, build options and class features), two sample starting builds, the class features, what deities they prefer and how they interact with them, the implements that they use.  Following that about 10 pages are used on powers. Finally a few pages (2 – 3) are spent on the paragon paths. 

Cleric

Similar to what one would expect, the cleric makes an extremely good healer with a mix of melee and ranged powers which deal only moderate damage but provide bonuses to allies.  Their class feature revolve greatly along improving your ability to heal, along with granting one "Divine" power per encounter (such as turn undead or divine fortune) and also provide the ritual casting feat for free.  Their at-will powers are interesting in that they give a medium damage die or single attack multiplier and then either a bonus to an ally to hit the same target as you, a bonus to defense or the ability to regain some temporary hit points or make a save vs an ongoing effect.  All in all, the at-will powers aren’t bad and are pretty much in line with what you would expect for the cleric in terms of power level vs the other classes.

Fighter

The fighter still makes a good tank.  Now, however, they are going to be constantly calling people out with their Combat challenges which mark that creature.  While marked that creature will take penalties to attack rolls against anyone else.  Furthermore, they will provoke immediate interrupt basic attacks if they are adjacent to you and try to shift away from you or attack someone else.  You will also get bonuses to hit on oppurtunity attacks and an attack bonus on either one-handed or two handed weapons.  The At-Will abilities include damaging another adjacent enemy to you on a hit, doing a small amount of damage on a miss, gaining a bonus to hit, or pushing people around on the battlefield with you taking their place on a hit.  These powers seem interesting, but, not too inspiring all in all.  I would say that the power that moves people around sounds like it might be extremely nice.  Furthermore, it looks like their encounter and daily powers do gobs of damage and effects which will probably be more their forte then the at-will powers.  I can’t tell for certain until I do some playtesting though.

Paladin

This class looks like it came in at a decent mix between the fighter and the cleric.  Your class features would include the channel divinity which will either add some extra damage or help an ally make a saving throw, Challenging and marking an enemy, and the lay on hands feature – which essentially lets you spend your healing surges for others.  The at-will abilities include either penalizing a marked target, doing extra damage to him / her, adding some temporary hit points or gaining a bonus to attack based on how many adjacent enemies there are.  The low level encounter, daily and utility powers do some interesting things by adding in more damage, marking multiple targets, making it so that any time an enemy attacks he or she takes damage, etc…

Ranger

To me this was a positive improvement from other games.  I have always felt that the ranger was a bit underpowered.  Now, however, it seems like they are at least a little more balanced…  Their features include the now common fighting style (two-weapon or ranged), a bonus to hit if you are closer to your target than anyone else, and the ability to do some extra damage to a "quarry".  The at-will powers give you a bonus to hit, allow you to leave an adjacent square after an attack, or attack twice.  Most of their powers seem to deal with multiple attacks, or moving in and around the battlefield.

Rogue

This class relies pretty heavily on gaining combat advantage against others.  For the class features, they gain a small bonus to wielding shuriken or daggers, they gain combat advantage against creatures who have yet to react in an encounter, they have a choice of gaining extra damage to sneak attacks or extra AC to oppurtunity attacks which they provoke and they get the sneak attack damage once a round to an enemy whom they have combat advantage on.   The at-will abilities provide movement abilities, attacks against reflex, the ability to interrupt your enemy for a basic attack or extra damage.  Most of their low level powers appear to revolve around doing a little more damage, causing some minor effects, moving around the battlefield before and after attacks, sliding your enemies, etc.  A number of the Utility powers give you the ability to combine some of your skills into other actions.

Warlock

This class is new to the players handbook and in my mind one of the more interesting.  It allows you to pick between three factions that you have made a pact with in order to garner your powers: Star Pact, Fey Pact, Infernal Pact.  The pact you choose will dictate which at-will powers you have (every warlock gets eldritch blast) as well as the "boon" which, it would appear, is just another name for a class feature.  Warlocks also get a bonus to hit an enemy if they are the closest ally to that enemy as well as the benefit of gaining concealment if they have moved more than 3 squares.  Furthermore, they curse an enemy to do more damage to him / her with their attacks. Fey – for each enemy that you have cursed that drops you teleport a short distance, your at will does a small amount of damage – but you are also invisible to the target until your next turn.  Infernal – you gain temporary hp for each enemy that you have cursed that drops, your at will deals extra damage if you get hit between when you hit the target and your the end of your next turn.  Star – you gain a cumulative bonus to a d20 roll for each enemy that you have cursed that drops, you deal extra damage to a creature that you hit which moves closer to you.  The warlocks powers will gain benefits depending on if you are in the appropriate pact, and, at low level seem to provide a wide variety of moving your enemy, hexing him, providing bonuses such as temporary hit points or bonus to defense, etc.  All in all this class is one of the more interesting in my mind with a wide array of powers and abilities.

Warlord

Another of the new classes, this one provides lots of powers to your allies with a decent attacks and defense.  It reminds me a lot of what the marshal was going for, but without the clunkiness.  The class features include a bonus to initiative for all allies within a fairly large radius, either inspirational or tactical tracks for your commanding presence, and the ability for allies to spend a healing surge with some bonuses.  Their at-will abilities include letting an ally make a basic attack, letting an ally shift before the warlord attacks, adding bonuses to the next attack an ally makes and making the target provoke an oppurtunity attack if they move.  Their low level powers appear to focus on providing allies with free basic attacks, providing bonuses to attacks or defense, and moving around the battlefield.  All in all this is one of the other classes I would most like to see in action.  It sounds as though it will make group stronger, but will not be able to do as much on its own.

Wizard

This class is the only one which gains more powers than it can use in a day.  It gains twice the number of utility and daily powers, but then has to choose which of the two it will memorize for the day.  They also gain access to the rituals, bonuses for weilding and using their implements (either a rod, staff or orb) each of which gives an pair of class features, and cantrips (ghost sound, light, mage hand, prestidigitation).  Their at will powers do effects that do a small amount of damage – but hurt anyone else entering that square, a moderate amount of damage to a single foe, a small amount of damage with a slow effect, a ranged burst effect with small damage, or a blast effect with small damage and a push effect.  The low level powers appear to either do burst or blast with a minor effect for small damage, or single target for moderate damage and an effect.  Some of these powers have ongoing effects while others do not.  It will be interesting to see how these "Wizards" stack up to an older style wizard or mage.  I am not sure how much I like this power system for wizards, although I think some of this may be alleviated when i read the rituals section.

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Anywho… This character class chapter was a HUGE portion of the book.  Having read it you really start to get a good feel for the direction of the game.  I think it will be interesting, although I am still holding out judgement until we get a few good sessions under our belt. 

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