Do You Need All 4 Roles in a Party?


First Post
I'm interested what those who've played in or ran groups have to say about this.

I ran 4 characters (fighter, rogue, ranger, wizard) through the one encounter with goblins, then the Kobold Hall dungeon in the DMG. They smoked everything without taking much damage until the final room.

I won't say what's in there except it's a solo creature. And I nearly had a TPK in the first three rounds of combat.

No healing bit them in the butt. It worked against kobolds but not against... it.

Have you begun to form an opinion on this?

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First Post
SDOgre said:
I'm interested what those who've played in or ran groups have to say about this.

I ran 4 characters (fighter, rogue, ranger, wizard) through the one encounter with goblins, then the Kobold Hall dungeon in the DMG. They smoked everything without taking much damage until the final room.

I won't say what's in there except it's a solo creature. And I nearly had a TPK in the first three rounds of combat.

No healing bit them in the butt. It worked against kobolds but not against... it.

Have you begun to form an opinion on this?
It is very effective to have all four roles present in a party, but it is not vital. Instead, a party needs to take account of what they have. If a party has no controller, for example, those that can should make sure that they take burst and blast powers to have some element of AOE. Likewise, if a party has no leader, they should take powers that offer greater defenses and healing (fighter's regen level 2 power, for example).

If a party operates as solely autonomous units, they will have problems against smart or solo enemies.


First Post
It's not necessary. And not much compensation is required on the part of the DM. My group consists of a fighter, paladin, leader, controller. The fighter is built more like a striker, which helps a bit. So far, they work fairly well.


First Post
I think the real case here is that for the most part the game is designed with the idea of balancing those four roles. Given this idea any designed encounter is going to have the problem of either being too easy for a party to manage or to hard. However if you are making your own encounters you can take a party that does not have each role into account and modify encounters accordingly.

Again its all a matter of working with what you have I suppose.

blargney the second

blargney the minute's son
Zsig said:
From my experience so far (which is not much):

1 Leader + 1 Defender

The rest is up to you.
That's exactly what I was going to say. You *need* the defender to keep your squishies from getting squished. If you haven't got a leader, your lack of healing will be the death of you.

A well-built fighter can deal enough damage that you can get away with not having a striker. With only one ally to defend, his marking and defending job is a lot simpler. A high-Int tactical warlord can multiclass into wizard to get a minion-control power for a single feat. If he takes Commander's Strike, then the fighter gets to nail off even more very potent attacks.


First Post
Just make sure you have a defender.
Dragonborn Fighters are great at filling multiple roles: Breath weapon and cleave help make up for not having a controller and high damage attacks make up for not having a striker. It's good to have a leader, but otherwise the fighter should take more skills that can heal himself (such as abilities that give him regen or let him use a surge).

If they don't have a leader, go with smaller encounters, since they can use their surges after combat without a healer.

If they don't have a controller, try not to use too many minions.

If they don't have a striker, try not to use too many solo or elites.

Make sure they have a defender!


First Post
Five fighters can mow down entire armies
Five rangers can turn an ogre into a pincushion in 3.2 seconds
Five paladins break the fight up into 1v1's and lay the holy beatdown
Five rogues perform a cirque de solaughter
Five warlocks curse their foes into complete ineptitude, then blast them
Five clerics just. . . won't. . . die. . .
Five warlords get flanking combat advantage on everyone in 1 turn
Five wizards leave the orcs as tall piles of ash with blinking eyes

But each is vulnerable to being eaten alive by an enemy group that doesn't play into their strengths. The more roles you can represent in the party, the more angles you can cover. Which means you can counter more enemy tactics, as well as exploit weaknesses of your enemy.

I suppose you could say that all four roles are vital, but the classes that fill those roles aren't, because some classes can cover for another role to a small degree. The fighter can generate some heavy damage, partially making up for lack of a striker. A Paladin can be a little leaderish, and War Cleric defendery, a Ranger can do small-scale controller functions. You just need to emphasise that in your team. If you lack a controller, but your ranger chose a lot of debuff powers and the fighter is good at sweeping away minions, you'll get by.

Another thing that can work is to steer away from the weekness you're left with. If you lack strikers, choose your powers, equipment and tactics to make every fight a grindfest. If you lack a leader, make sure your party can hit level-apropriate foes on thier own, and bring them down fast - it doesn't matter if everyone is bloodied or worse, as long as you win, you can heal up with a short rest.

All that said, I think a controller is most easily done without, the leader and defender are the hardest to do with out, and the defender and striker are best to have more than one of in a larger party.


First Post
When I ran the pregrens through the same fights as my current group the pregens got smoked.

Paladin (defender), warlord(leader), cleric (leader), and fighter (defender).

They could not do enough damage and the cleric and warlord were constantly surrounded so the fighter and paladin spent their time trying to pull stuff off them. What a mess.

The party of wizard, fighter, warlock, and cleric they now have is doing much better. All four roles covered.

So I agree with the leader + defender + whatever to a certain extent. I think the next two are not as important but you still have to be mindful of what roles the others fill.


First Post
I dunno about the need for a defender. Many leader builds will emphasize physical stats so they can pick up better Heavy Armor than chain and shields, so they can nearly match a fighter for durability. A 'heavy' warlord or cleric could take hits pretty well. One of the cleric PPs even provides marking and combat challenge like stuff. If you have somewhat less fragile squishes, then the inferior defending ability shouldn't be as much of a problem. Especially if you're picking up a second leader instead of defender.

No Leader is pretty harsh though. Sure, there are powers for spending surges and multiclassing. But those are generally Daily powers, instead of 2 or 3 shots of minor action healing per encounter PLUS all the other leader powers. Compensating for a lack of healing seems much harder than deficiencies.


Defenders are important, but even more important is making sure that those playing leaders don't play them *as* defenders.

I'm getting a little tired of picking up the splattered remains of warlords and clerics who think they are tanks.

Nahat Anoj

First Post
IMO, controllers are probably the role that's least important. They are nice if you have to face lots of minions, but they are hamstrung a bit by their AoE powers (they don't want to target allies).


First Post
Zsig said:
From my experience so far (which is not much):

1 Leader + 1 Defender

The rest is up to you.

I would almost want to add a striker, but you can make a pseudo striker with a Defender in a pinch. For a party of 5, you could have 1 Great Weapon Fighter, 1 Guardian Fighter, 1 Avenging Paladin, 1 Tactical Warlord, and 1 Devoted Cleric, and they would perform fairly well in most situations as a group of defenders and leaders.

Multiclass options and racial abilities can sometimes help cover the lack of a role. For instance a Dragonborn Warlord with Wizard Multiclass could be a respectable controller between his breath and a Scroching Burst.

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Here's my experience with our first two 4e sessions with an actual persistant group. Not sure exactly what the point is and it's not particularly organized, but it's one group's experience:

Dragonborn Paladin of Bahamut, Maul, Plate
Halfling Brutal Scoundrel Rogue, Dagger, Shuriken, Hand X-bow, Leather
Human Cleric of the Raven Queen (ranged heal/buff focus), Mace, Chain
Eladrin Wizard (All attack powers AoE)

We purposely decided to test one of each role, since this "mini-campaign" is a dungeon crawl to get a feel for the combat system and rules. We've easily handled everything thrown at us.

We've fought about 6 or 7 combat encounters, haven't had anyone dropped once. Even though the wizard has nothing but AoEs, he's never dropped one on another player.

All our fights were against various versions of goblins + some rats at the end. In total, about 3/5 of the damage was done to the paladin, the wizard was hit once, no damage to the cleric, the rest was done to the rogue. Total damage done after two sessions was probably roughly even(maybe 10% variance) between all party members.

The first session and the first couple fights of the second, my paladin did a ton of damage(go maul!), but was barely on the charts the last two fights. In those last few fights, the wizard and cleric did a ton of damage. The rogue was the most consistant in damage output do to his high +to hit and decent attack rolls. We had some fights where the wizard, cleric, or paladin did a ton or almost no damage, but the rogue had pretty consistant damage from fight to fight.

Note: I recorded damage done, healing done, and damage taken for all the fights. In the first session, my format sucked and I missed a few things, but for the second session I have pretty solid numbers. We rolled damage against minions and I recorded it all as damage done, even though the minions took only one hp of it to die. The wizard and cleric's damage done totals go down considerably - and my paladin to a lesser degree - if you only count minions as 1 hp worth of damage.

In the first session, wizard had the lowest damage done and my paladin had the most. Second session was the opposite. My paladin got down to 3hp two or three times in one fight, but that was the closest we ever got to having someone go down. I don't think anyone stayed bloodied for more than one round. I don't think I ever worried that we might lose a fight, especially with our redundant cleric - paladin healing.

The fights were all xp balanced to slightly on the hard side(probably +100 xp or less) for 4 players. Having three classes with AoEs of some sort(Dragonbreath, Divine Glow, Wizard) makes a huge difference. With a few exceptions, minions were not an issue and we destroyed the two swarms we fought in about two rounds. Minions were often mostly dead from dragonbreath or divine glow before the wizard even got to go.

Divine mark rarely was useful since few things lived longer than a round or two after they were marked and they were attacking my paladin anyway. The one notable exception was when I had a dire rat pinned down with it, allowing the rogue and cleric to slip past with no OAs to take out a witch-doctor goblin. Maul + 2[W] or 3[W] was frickin' sweet. I think in those 6-7 fights, I only hit with my at-wills twice. I ended up doing alot of charges(which I almost always hit with - go figure) because my mobility was so low compared to the goblins we were fighting.

The rogue used mostly Sly Flourish ranged attacks so he could try to sneak and get combat advantage. With King's Castle usually only adding 1d4 to his damage, he rarely even bothered to use it. Used Positioning Strike once or twice, but I think the witch-doctor died from the hit so the effect didn't matter. Only in the last couple fights did he really spend much time in melee. In both he took more damage than my paladin as a result...

The cleric was a healing machine. Anyone bloodied was pretty much always healed(usually up to full or close) within a round. I only had to use lay on hands once in two days of game time. His divine glow accounted for probably 1/2 to 2/3 of his damage output. Raven-queen's blessing was a sweet extra bit of healing. In the second session, he beat the rogue and my paladin for damage done, only about 10-15 damage behind the wizard.

The wizard didn't do very well the first session, but in the second used his AoE arsenal to great effect - especially when he busted out the Flaming Sphere. If you don't think wizards have much battlefield control at low levels, watch a tactically played wizard play with a Flaming Sphere in a moderately-enclosed space. He did a fair share of minion sweeping, but also "softened up" tough foes before they got into melee, making them go down pretty quick once they got in.

I will re-affirm something I've seen mentioned on the boards: the cleric is a force multiplier. Any of the rest of us could probably be replaced with something else, but without a leader I think some of those easy encounters would have become brutal.

These fights did mostly take place in fairly narrow spaces, often with chokepoints that we exploited. I'm not sure how differently it might have gone if there was more maneuvering room and/or against other (non-goblin/rat foes). I imagine with more space my paladin mark would be to greater effect since tanking in many of these fights just meant standing in the middle of a narrow hallway or just charing in and being the closest to one the enemy. The rogue would probably be able to find Combat Advantage a bit more and the wizard and cleric might actually take some damage from stuff slipping around the sides.

The key thing is we felt like a party and everyone had moments where we got to do cool stuff. I was actually occasionally envious of all the healing the cleric got to do - and how well he did it. The rogue was fairly bland most of the time, doing moderate consistant damage, then he'd get combat advantage somehow and something usually died. The wizard probably had the most consistant damage(especially in the second session when he was rolling decent) since he was making an average of 2-3 attack rolls per AoE and hit more often than not.

So, anyways, huge ramble, but it's straight "from the trenches" with a combination of anecdotal and emperical evidence to back it up.
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