D&D General D&D is a Team Sport. What are the positions?

Reynard

Legend
Inspired by a post by @Snarf Zagyg in another thread.

NOTE: This is in D&D General, but I am going to talk mostly about 5E just for familiarity sake, but some language from other editions like 4E is going to necessarily seep in.

I think that the idea that D&D is a team sport -- a cooperative competitive experience -- is an apt analogy, particularly when we are talking about combat. So if that is true, and the PCs represent the "home team" then what are the positions that need filled to complete the team? If talking about a 4 or 5 PC party, I think they are something like:

Striker: You primary damage dealer. Everyone should have the ability to hit, but you need a character that can really bring the hurt at key times. The Paladin is good for this, as is the rogue.
Healer: Hit points are the controlling factor in any D&D combat and essentially represent a combination of the clock and victory points, so a healer is very important. Usually this is the cleric.
Controller: changing the battlefield allows the PC team to concentrate efforts and focus on objectives, so someone who can do that is important. This is mostly a spellcaster role given the nature of D&D play and genre assumptions.
Leader/Buffer; This is more of a meta-role and can be part of the healer role or separate. In either case, the ability to buff members can give the team an edge, especially if the buff can be targeted and switched up easily from round to round as the situation changes.
Lineman: The team also needs one or two workaday bruisers who can support the striker. In 5E most classes can fill this role, though ones with either high defenses or lots of hit points are better at it simply because they can also tie up enemies in melee.

This of course is simplistic and broad but I think it is a decent starting place. One problem is that just like in real world meatspace sports, people like to feel like theya re the star. Team members who don't pass the ball or try and hog the spotlight or play outside their role can hurt the overall success of the team. This happens in D&D, too. It can be tempting for linemen to try and act the striker when they really aren't equipped to do so, or for healers to get bored with support and let the team down by spending actions or resources on attacks instead. Most of these failures would disappear if a single player controlled all the characters, which shows you it is a player problem, not a system problem.

So, if we use the analogy of D&D combat as a team sport, what do you think are the key positions? How important is it that team members stay in their lane? Is the position distribution rigid, or is there lots of wiggle room? Does it change from edition to edition, or between tiers of play?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

aco175

Legend
You need offense and defense. They can overlap and be some combo of the two. Straight damage dealing offense like a barbarian. I was thinking rogue, but they have that power that lets them take no damage from a DEX save and half damage from 1 attack to they would have to be a combo of offense and defense. I guess barbarian could be a combo as well since the have damage reduction. These dials can be turned different in each class as well. A cleric can be great at defense and healing or can be more offense focused and not poor as defense.

4e had roles like the OP is mostly talking about. Some was just in terms of monsters and setting up combats with the roles to make combats more interesting. There were brutes who dealt damage and took damage with high HP but had poor AC. Soldiers/defenders were better than brutes for having a higher AC, but did less damage. Strikers/skirmishers were able to deal great damage but only some of the time. Controllers who could move people around and change the battlefield. Artillery had cool damage spells or something but had poor AC and HP generally. Lurers did cool things but needed time or the right conditions so might be better in surprise rounds.

PC roles in 4e were just; leader, striker, controller and defender. They are fine, but could be cleared up more if people want to use something else. Each 5e class seems to fill one of these and does having one of each make a party? How does subclasses fill the roles or change them? My cleric of light gets fireball and not I's more than a healer or defender.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Well, since I mentioned it, I might as well offer my view.

First, I think that your proffered roles aren't necessarily bad, but I think that they also reflect a specific view of the game. When I see them, I see a focus on a tactical combat-focused game that would necessarily use minis, for example. And perhaps that is where D&D is going, with the emphasis on DDB and the VTT.

But that's not what I, personally, want. Broadly, I want four roles-

A. Combat. This is the "fighter" role. You can have an emphasis on offense or defense (or a mix). But these are the classes that are "front-line."

B. Casters. These are the squishy dudes who lack the hit points, weapons, and armor to get into combat, but make up for it with the ability to cast spells.

C. Half-and-half. A little combat, a little casting. Not as good at combat as A, not as good at spellcasting as B.

D. Skills. These are the classes that aren't spellcasters, are better at combat than casters (but worse than the combat classes), but make up for it in having a plethora of out-of-combat abilities.

Now, if you look carefully, you'll notice that this just happens to map on to the original "Core Four" (Fighter, Magic User, Cleric, Thief). And I think that there's a good reason for that- given sufficient niche protection, these are the four archetypes that you would want, with every other class being a variation of one of those.

Barbarian (Fighter)
Bard
Cleric (Cleric)
Druid (Cleric)
Fighter (Fighter)
Monk (Fighter)
Paladin (Cleric)
Ranger (Cleric or Fighter, if you use the spell-less Ranger)
Rogue (Thief)
Sorcerer (Magic User)
Warlock (Magic User)
Wizard (Magic User)

Just provide more niche protection.
 

Reynard

Legend
Well, since I mentioned it, I might as well offer my view.

First, I think that your proffered roles aren't necessarily bad, but I think that they also reflect a specific view of the game. When I see them, I see a focus on a tactical combat-focused game that would necessarily use minis, for example. And perhaps that is where D&D is going, with the emphasis on DDB and the VTT.

But that's not what I, personally, want. Broadly, I want four roles-

A. Combat. This is the "fighter" role. You can have an emphasis on offense or defense (or a mix). But these are the classes that are "front-line."

B. Casters. These are the squishy dudes who lack the hit points, weapons, and armor to get into combat, but make up for it with the ability to cast spells.
I think it is interesting that you separate combat and casting, when I think most modern players would not do so. Casting is something you do in combat, after all, and has a huge impact on combat.
 

CreamCloud0

One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
I think that the idea that D&D is a team sport -- a cooperative competitive experience -- is an apt analogy, particularly when we are talking about combat. So if that is true, and the PCs represent the "home team" then what are the positions that need filled to complete the team? If talking about a 4 or 5 PC party,
are you explicitly focusing on combat roles here? it's a little less combat roles focused but the dungeon dudes had IMO a good party role categorisation with: frontline, damage, investigator, explorer, utility, negotiator, support.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I think it is interesting that you separate combat and casting, when I think most modern players would not do so. Casting is something you do in combat, after all, and has a huge impact on combat.

I would say that this is a problem in terms of niche protection.

If casters get always-on damaging cantrips, and also get AoE spells, and also get the full suite of spells for out-of-combat ...

Then you've pretty much just stated what the problem is when it comes to niche protection. There is none.
 

Reynard

Legend
are you explicitly focusing on combat roles here? it's a little less combat roles focused but the dungeon dudes had IMO a good party role categorisation with: frontline, damage, investigator, explorer, utility, negotiator, support.

I would say that this is a problem in terms of niche protection.

If casters get always-on damaging cantrips, and also get AoE spells, and also get the full suite of spells for out-of-combat ...

Then you've pretty much just stated what the problem is when it comes to niche protection. There is none.
I think these are related so I will answer them simultaneously:

I think it is okay to make combat a mode shift in play. If you do that, though, the resources used in combat should be specific to combat and the resources used in exploration (for example) should not be depleted by combat (or vice versa). When talking "D&D as a team sport" i think of it in those terms.

If there is not a mode shift, which I think was certainly more common in the TSR era editions, then I don't think the "team sport" analogy works as well. When traversing the corridor is as fraught as fighting the goblins, everyone has to bring their A game all the time and be agile and able to improvise no matter what happens. There is a lot less differentiating each character in a B/X party than a 5E party even at 1st level, for example (mostly how quickly they will die if they do something dumb like get in a fight).
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
There is a lot less differentiating each character in a B/X party than a 5E party even at 1st level, for example (mostly how quickly they will die if they do something dumb like get in a fight).

Uh ... yeah, I don't think I can agree with this.

Obviously, depending on how you define "differentiate," a person can make a good argument that different classes in 5e have more abilities than they used to. However, that's not really the issue. It's about niche protection.

In B/X (and OD&D/AD&D, which are better example), there was much more niche protection. Let's use AD&D as the example-

If you weren't a thief, you didn't have thief skills.
Weapons and armor were restricted by class. Magic users got daggers, Fighters got two-handed swords. Magic users got not armor, Fighters got plate.
Magic items were also class-specific, to a much greater extent than they are in 5e.
Hit points were less, and therefore the difference mattered a lot more. d4 hit points with minimal constitution as compared to d10 with up to +4 per level.
The highest strength bonuses were restricted to fighters.*

...and so on. So I can't agree with this statement; the amount of differentiation, in terms of niche protection, was much much greater back then.


*When I say fighter, I mean fighter and their subclasses.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
So, if we use the analogy of D&D combat as a team sport, what do you think are the key positions? How important is it that team members stay in their lane? Is the position distribution rigid, or is there lots of wiggle room? Does it change from edition to edition, or between tiers of play?
Defense, offense, support, utility.

As they've always been. You need a meatshield, a heavy-hitter, a healer, and someone to do the tricksy stuff.

Just don't tell people that. They get incredibly upset if you ever tell them that certain classes were designed to be good at one of those things.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
I am definitely a strategy over tactics design style player. In that, I mean its more important preparing to adventure, and deciding where and how to fight, then actually using powers and abilities to perform a role in a fight. I enjoy combat, but I prefer if its quick so that it doesnt eat session time and brain bandwidth of everyone at the table. I lean more on the exploration and social pillar than perhaps the average gamer does. This was more important in earlier editions, but 5E seems to have deemphasized role which is a winner idea for me.

I also value character customizability highly. Meaning, I do not like hard baked classes that do not allow for multiple roles and styles. The more a class is hard locked in an intended role, the less I'm going to like that game. Especially, if that class can only be a defender or striker, but not move between those examples. 3E had a lot of faults, but its custom character building was definitely a strength for me. 5E was designed to sort of split the difference and does it ok. Which is why its everyones second favorite edition ;)

To reinvent the wheel in my own mind and have a little fun, here is my list of roles;
  • Combatant - Strong in battle in both taking and dealing damage. Keeps team alive.
  • Guide - Aids their compatriots in and out of battle, makes the team stronger.
  • Director - Manipulates the situation in favor of the party in any pillar.
  • Allure - Silvered tongue social operator and inspiration for the party.
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top