log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&d pc roles: From past to present to future

xechnao

First Post
old school:
ever ready (fighter)
trick monkey (thief)
nuker (mage)
buffer/debuffer (priest)

3.xe
:confused: What do you think?

4e
striker
controller
leader
defender

5e
:confused:Insert your favorite idea


Discuss.
PS: it is desired to correct/challenge whatever premise you want in the OP
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Verdande

First Post
Fighter = Meat Shield
Magic User = Bag of Tricks
Thief = Trapspringer
Cleric = Healbot
Elf = Spellsword
Dwarf = Sword and Boarder
Halfling = ??
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Ignoring what 3e's 15 million prestige classes brought to the table, the roles a party needs to somehow fill haven't changed much:

The tank. You can never have too many of these heavily-armoured damage-absorbing front line bashers who can also take the fight to the enemy when needed.

The scout: Often overlooked but always useful, a scout can tell you what lies ahead before you get there and can often get into (and out of) places others cannot. One in a party is usually enough.

The artillery: Anyone who mostly deals with threats at a distance via spell, missile or device. Again, something you can never have too many of.

The support: These guys patch you up when you're done fighting and-or exploring, see to the information gathering and divination, buff you up before and during battles, and so on. Many parties tend to think one of these is enough. They are wrong.

The rest: Those who can't figure out which of the above roles they fill and so instead try to fill either none of them or as many of them as they can. Many parties can do without these unless all the other roles are well covered.

So, who fills these roles?

Tank: Fighter (all editions), Cavalier (1e), Paladin (1-2-3e), Knight (3e), etc. The Barbarian (1-3e) also fits here, just without the armour.

Scout: Thief (1-2e), Rogue (3-4e), Ranger (all editions)

Artillery: Magic-User and subclasses (1-2e), Wizard and subclasses (3-4e), any character built primarily as an archer (all editions)

Support: Cleric (all editions), Druid (all editions), Bard (3e)

Rest: Monk (all editions), most wacko multi-class combinations (all editions)

I'm not sure where a few classes specific to 4e fit in. Warlord, for example - the class name suggests tank but everything I've heard/read seems to want to make it either support or artillery; so it might best be put in "the rest".

Also, sometimes classes primarily seen as one role might have specific characters who better perform another - a good example is the "heavy Ranger" who gives up on stealth in favour of joining the front line.

Lan-"single-class and proud of it"-efan
 

xechnao

First Post
This is quote of a post in another forum where this discussion is held:
xechnao said:
Roy said:
Roles exist as a way to force multiplayer. Except that it's a tabletop game, so it's kinda assumed you'll willingly play multiplayer.

Interesting observation.

Roles indicate to others a different way of doing things that they can't follow. So if the game assumes roles it is like individuals having to assume that they have to embrace the fact that they cant do certain things that some other individual can.
 

Lanefan, your knowledge of 4e is slightly off :) But other than that I'll agree with most of what you wrote other than to say that the truly scary 3e wizards weren't artillery, they were support. And Bards made excellent scouts in 3e (sculpt sound, invisibility, hide, move silently, listen).

Warlord is a 4e leader class - urging people onwards and inspiring them to pull out their reserves of energy (effectively healing them). That doesn't mean my current warlord doesn't wear heavy armour and a shield and sometimes tank. But they are support characters. (There's also a difference between a tank and a melee killer who is also on the front line).
 
Last edited:

I've written some stuff about this on my blog recently and roles have changed somewhat over the years. Short version: One of the biggest is that in 1E and 2E there was no Striker/Defender split - Fighters were the combat monsters for both offense and defense and "Tanking" as a concept really didn't exist. They were up front because they hit the hardest AND had the best AC and HP, not just to soak up hits for the rest of the party.

Clerics were fairly similar to the leader role but were a lot handier in melee than the way the leader is typically viewed today. With an AC equal to that of the fighter and good offensive capability as well they could stand in for a fighter when needed.

Thieves were not strikers except possibly under very specific conditions - the genesis of the Striker lies more with the 2E Ranger than with the thief class.

Artillery as a concept was also largely restricted to certain wizards as in 1E a fighter by default was just as good with a bow as he was with a sword outside of stat modifiers. There was not much specialization required, certainly nothing like what we saw in 3E or 4E.

Depending on the level & the opposition involved M-U's could be good buffer/debuffers and Clerics could be decent nukers too so there was some flexibility as far as role.

Also remember most parties were bigger than the 4-5 man modern standard. You might have 6-8 PC's + various hirelings and henchmen. Looking back 1 thief, 1 cleric, 1 magic-user, + 2-3 fighters (including sub-classes and multi-classes) was a pretty typical party. You might think people were more concerned with nice protection/roles but they really weren't. Roles were not seen as conceptually distinct from the classes themselves - it wasn't "we need a tank or a brick" it was "We need a fighter" or "we need a cleric". Thieves were usually seen as optional - you could go without them a lot easier than you oculd a wizard, fighter, or cleric. The idea of balance was very different than it is now.

It's a fun topic to discuss. There are some assumptions in 4E that "things have always been this way" but it's really not true. This arrangement works for 4E and makes sense in the game, but the Four 4E Roles have not always been true for other editions of D&D or other games either.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Thieves were not strikers except possibly under very specific conditions - the genesis of the Striker lies more with the 2E Ranger than with the thief class.

Back in 1E/2E/3E, thieves were needed for the ability to Find/Remove Traps. Most parties I saw back in the day refused to set a foot into a dungeon without a thief/rogue because all it would take was one trap to take out the entire party.

The one term I haven't seen mentioned yet (and which vanished in 4E):

Skill Monkey/Face - the rogue or bard, for their ability to handle out-of-combat encounters, usually social situations. Magic is nice for this, but you usually only get one shot/person with magic, whereas skills can be used over and over.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I've written some stuff about this on my blog recently and roles have changed somewhat over the years. Short version: One of the biggest is that in 1E and 2E there was no Striker/Defender split - Fighters were the combat monsters for both offense and defense and "Tanking" as a concept really didn't exist. They were up front because they hit the hardest AND had the best AC and HP, not just to soak up hits for the rest of the party.
When I think of "tank", though, I'm thinking of something that can take damage *and* give it out. Like a tank. :)
Clerics were fairly similar to the leader role but were a lot handier in melee than the way the leader is typically viewed today. With an AC equal to that of the fighter and good offensive capability as well they could stand in for a fighter when needed.
Very true at low levels. I find that as levels get higher, Clerics stand farther back in the ranks.
Thieves were not strikers except possibly under very specific conditions - the genesis of the Striker lies more with the 2E Ranger than with the thief class.
I'm still not sure what a "striker" is supposed to be. Am I right in guessing it's someone who gives out lots of damage but can't (or doesn't) absorb much?
Artillery as a concept was also largely restricted to certain wizards as in 1E a fighter by default was just as good with a bow as he was with a sword outside of stat modifiers. There was not much specialization required, certainly nothing like what we saw in 3E or 4E.
If you used 1e specialization rules from UA there was - or could be - loads of difference. A bow-spec'ed high-Dex. light-armour Fighter could artillerize with the best of 'em.
Depending on the level & the opposition involved M-U's could be good buffer/debuffers and Clerics could be decent nukers too so there was some flexibility as far as role.
Very true, and the roles in general were more blurred; which in and of itself isn't really a bad thing.
Also remember most parties were bigger than the 4-5 man modern standard. You might have 6-8 PC's + various hirelings and henchmen. Looking back 1 thief, 1 cleric, 1 magic-user, + 2-3 fighters (including sub-classes and multi-classes) was a pretty typical party.
Our average party size is around 8-10. I find a nice side effect is there's lots more chance for character interaction, with so many different personalities involved, than in a small 4-5 character group.

When putting together a party, you'd also tend to fill a "role" with more than one character - the tank would be a front line made up of several characters; the artillery might be a couple of wizards and an archer; the support might be a Cleric and a Druid; and so forth. And, there'd still often be room for an oddball...a Monk, or Bard, or Assassin; whatever.
You might think people were more concerned with nice protection/roles but they really weren't. Roles were not seen as conceptually distinct from the classes themselves - it wasn't "we need a tank or a brick" it was "We need a fighter" or "we need a cleric". Thieves were usually seen as optional - you could go without them a lot easier than you oculd a wizard, fighter, or cleric. The idea of balance was very different than it is now.

It's a fun topic to discuss. There are some assumptions in 4E that "things have always been this way" but it's really not true. This arrangement works for 4E and makes sense in the game, but the Four 4E Roles have not always been true for other editions of D&D or other games either.
Not true directly as written, but I think the same vague ideas have always kind of been there. The biggest difference I can see - assuming I'm interpreting things correctly - is 4e took what used to be a scout role, gave it damage output, and called it striker.

Lan-"unbalanced"-efan
 

clip

First Post
1e:

Fighter : "I am the God of Battle, tremble at my feet!"
Thief : If your thief wasn't a risk-taker, there was no point having one.
Cleric: Heal me. They also did something else to do with undead, but I can't remember what.
Paladin : Good at fighting, but a roleplaying trainwreck.
Druid : No good at fighting, and a roleplaying trainwreck.
Monk : You always need someone who can feign death.
Ranger : 2d8 hp at first level. Say no more.
Assassin : And you thought the 4e assassin was useless?
Magic User : You get annoyed when the fighters ask if Magic Missile is all you have left.
Illusionist : You remember the arguments the magic user player had with the DM about Phantasmal Force? You can have them all the time, at every level.
 

Jhaelen

First Post
3.xe
:confused: What do you think?
I've used the following four to categorize the 3e classes:
- skill-monkey
- healer
- striker (i.e. targeting one enemy at a time)
- nuker (i.e. focusing on area-of-effect attacks)

Naturally, not all classes fall neatly into a single category. Many of them can cover several roles.
 

Aloïsius

First Post
On of the shift that can be observed between edition is the importance of combat.
In 4e, it's all about killing things. Thus, there is no more real need for "the face" or "the scout" or "the skill monkey". Striker, tank, healer, controller.
Sure, one of the character will probably be better than the others at one of those non-combat situation, but no class is defined by a non-combat role.
 

clip

First Post
4e:

LEADERS: Heal. Fight a bit. Some funky class features.

Cleric : After 30 years, still the healing bitch. Take Pacifist Healer Feat, and you may as well be an NPC.

Warlord : A class for only the most generous-hearted players. And your defender had better be a paladin, or the healing is going to run out fast.


DEFENDERS: Like the big metal dude on Fist of the North Star. Minions jump at you and disintegrate when they do so.

Paladin: The alignment restrictions have gone, so the roleplaying PITA goes too. Post Divine Power, this is a cool class.

Fighter : The strikers think they're the new Gods of Battle. But you know that they're wrong.

Warden : Kind of a black hole type character, sucking everything in and destroying it.


CONTROLLERS: Essentially, the wizard. All the others are attempts at alternatives - but they don't do much controlling or AoEing.


STRIKERS: Rolling big handfuls of dice for damage. Marking like its going out of fashion. But oh so flimsy when it gets down and dirty.

Ranger : Class built round an at-will.

Rogue : Class built round sneak attack.

Warlock : Everyone wants this class to work, looks interesting, but are they really strikers?

Sorcerer : Cool, but I think potentially the squishiest out there. Kind of a throwback to the older edition d4 hp, AC10 magic users.

Barbarian : King of the melee with all those charges and conditional extra attacks. But considering its a melee character, the healers will be working overtime.

Avenger : I'm in two minds about this class. I've seen some players make it rule, and others have a nightmare. Mechanically, its almost an old school Cavalier challenging foes to single combat - except without the horse, lance and field plate armour.

Assassin : As far as I've seen - good at hiding and not much else.
 


Remathilis

Legend
Here's been my take...

WARRIOR: Primarily concerned with dealing out and soaking damage in combat. Often had high hp, decent AC, and good attack bonus. Options included Fighter, Ranger, Paladin, Barbarian.

CASTER: An arcane spellcaster. First role is nuking (doing spell damage to multiple foes, or creating surrogates to fight) with a secondary role as "utility" caster (movement, illusions, divination etc). Wizard, Illusionist, Sorcerer are common examples.

HEALER: Typically a dvine spellcaster, primary concern is keeping the group healthy via hp renewal (cure) and negative status removal (removing disease, poison, death, etc). Secondary Utility role as well. Clerics and Druids often have this role.

EXPERT: Fills one or more skill roles: Scouting (stealth-based), Face-man (social skills), trap detection (find/remove traps) Survival (wilderness skills) and/or Access (opening locks, etc). Secondary role is skirmisher/flanker. Rogues, Assassins, Bards, Rangers, and Monks are all good Experts.

The roles could shift a bit (rangers could be a tank or an expert, depending on the build of the ranger/party, likewise bards and paladins could serve as backup healers or druids as casters or even tanks!) Typically, it was a good idea to fill all four roles, ideally they should be filled with the core 4 classes and other classes taking the role of second X or 5th man.
 

Utili-mage

One role that has been missed here is the ‘toolbox’.

The toolbox usually has one or two offensive spells but shines when the party REALLY needs something

Consider the low level 2nd ed wizard and think of the possibilities of replacing the thief (agreed this is only for well planned heists); but spells are certain while skills require a roll.

Door is locked beyond the skill to handle? Cantrip: unlock.
Have to pass guards without them raising the alarm? Sleep, Invis or (later) polymorph self.
Avoid that trap/trigger/hold-up? Telekinesis or Unseen Servant.
Distraction? Audible Glamour.

And the ultimate ‘get in – get out’: Dimension door or Teleport.

For the rest of the toolbox stuff, a brief look at the Div spell list will show many ways to bust a plot wide open.

Think on this…

 

Remathilis

Legend
One role that has been missed here is the ‘toolbox’.
The toolbox usually has one or two offensive spells but shines when the party REALLY needs something
Consider the low level 2nd ed wizard and think of the possibilities of replacing the thief (agreed this is only for well planned heists); but spells are certain while skills require a roll.
Door is locked beyond the skill to handle? Cantrip: unlock.
Have to pass guards without them raising the alarm? Sleep, Invis or (later) polymorph self.
Avoid that trap/trigger/hold-up? Telekinesis or Unseen Servant.
Distraction? Audible Glamour.
And the ultimate ‘get in – get out’: Dimension door or Teleport.
For the rest of the toolbox stuff, a brief look at the Div spell list will show many ways to bust a plot wide open.
Think on this…

Ugg... Thanks for reminding me of my LEAST favorite aspect of D&D: role-stomping.

Role-stomping is one one class can do ITS role as well as someone else's, often simultaneously. Role-stomping classes (and they are few, but they are familiar to anyone whose spent time around the game) often hog the spotlight from the other classes. Typically, a wizard can steal a rogue/thieves abilities, a cleric or druid can duplicate a fighter and in some cases a druid can out-mage a mage. (CoDzilla or Batman mage). Artificers can pull a lot of the same stunts as well, using the right magical items at little or no cost.

Role-stomping was at its worst in 3e, but even in 2e it was a problem (due a lot to magic being an "auto-win" like with Knock or Find Traps). Additionally, Specialty Priest often role-stomped depending on the deity/source (Faiths & Avatars was especially bad at this). I'm sure elements of it existed before 2e, as most (if not all) the components needed were already there.

While I don't usually grant laurels to 4e's rigid structure, I must admit I was initially pleased that more effort was put into keeping PCs into their roles and not taking theirs and someone-elses. Similarly, I think Pathfinder has nerfed a lot of the grand 3e exploits that allowed Cleric/Druid/Wizard to role-stomp.
 

Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top