D&D 4E Explain the Warlord

Retreater

Legend
Dusting off my old 4E books and waxing nostalgic about the previous edition, I settled on reading the entry of the Warlord in the PHB. The class is often mentioned as a high point of 4E design, and many say they wish the class would've been ported over to 5E.
In actual play, I never saw a player take a Warlord. There were more psionic Ardents (I think that's the psychic leader). And why? It was in the first PHB, so it was around from the very beginning.
I'm looking over it now, and the powers seem incredibly situational and underwhelming. If you happen to be standing adjacent to a monster and an ally is also standing adjacent to the same monster, if you hit on an attack your ally can also make a basic attack (assuming they have a basic attack that's decent). Not to mention the dependence of needing multiple great ability scores (Strength to hit, Intelligence to give a bonus, Charisma to do something else, etc).
And this is the At-Will rock on which the church of Warlord is built? A class that only works in special circumstances with a very specific party (one based on basic attacks).
It seems one of the worst designed classes in that edition. Maybe it's fondly remembered because of bragging rights, overcoming the bad design to make a character who could contribute at just a few steps below every other Leader in the game?
 

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Odysseus

Explorer
I had one player that loved the Warlord class. And would play nothing else. With 5E he plays Clerics.
And we had no problems with the class. Generally he needed a striker , to grant attacks to. But most players liked Strikers, so that wasn't a problem.We played a couple of 1 to 30 level campaigns, and the Warlord was a great character to have in the party.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
So being in the first PHB, like the Cleric and Bard, meant the Warlord got a lot of support, with several different builds emerging over the course of the edition. While not the healing powerhouse of the Cleric, the Warlord had access to a Feat that let them use their minor action encounter healing power an additional time, which was very welcome.

The Warlord had, from 1st level, abilities that let them give up their mediocre Leader attack to grant a Striker a bonus attack, which was not only an upgrade in of itself, but also allowed for the "Lazy Warlord" build, that never actually attacked themselves, but lent attacks to their Striker allies.

The Warlord also had powerful abilities that could turn the tide in battle, such as a Daily area heal in Stand the Fallen, or utility powers like Reorient the Axis, which allowed all your allies to move freely to better flank foes (or just get out of danger).

One thing you can't underestimate is the Warlord's Action Point ability; any time an ally spend an Action Point, they got a non-trivial buff. Probably the best of these was the Tactical Warlord's ability to grant a bonus to all attack rolls equal to their Int bonus. In a game where attack bonuses can be rather stingy, adding a +4 or higher to all your attack rolls during a nova round, when you're firing off Daily attack powers, is a godsend for just about any character. The Eladrin, in particular, had a Paragon Path that increased accuracy to near game-breaking levels; don't forget that many powers that have saving throws now instead targeted a non-AC defense. This means that landing powerful "until end of next turn" powers on Elites and Solos is incredibly satisfying, and increasing the odds of success by a large margin is incredibly good.

Higher-level abilities allowed the Warlord to give their entire party free attacks, like charging and allowing all your Strikers to also charge off turn. There was even a decent ranged Warlord, with powers like Race the Arrow, which allowed you to shoot an enemy, and then let one of your allies charge that target for free with bonuses.

The biggest draw, however, of the Warlord, I think, was that they provided these benefits through tactical acumen and leadership, not divine inspiration or magic. For players who are averse to "finger wiggling", this was the perfect complement to a martial playstyle.

I'm actually surprised you saw so many Ardents, to be honest. Maybe it was their choice of build and powers, but the one guy I played with who had an Ardent always seemed to come up short compared to other Leaders; even my Bard regularly showed him up.

As a side benefit of the "Lazy-lord" build, the Warlord was incredibly useful for Hybrid builds, granting strong armor to classes that lacked it, and always-useful support abilities. Probably my toughest character in 4e was "The Professor", a Hybrid Wizard/Warlock who could wear medium armor and a shield, and who generally had an answer to any situation his group got themselves into, even if that was "throw the Ranger at it".
 

GreyLord

Legend
It's been a long time, but I had a player using a Warlord.

If I recall they also have a few powers that help heal, but even bigger, ones that increase criticals and other things.

They may seem small on the surface but digging deeper with the strategy actually let it shine.

The Warlord has to be a selfless player though as the class is made to accentuate others rather than to be the mainstar themselves.

If I remember it correctly.
 

darkbard

Hero
The Feature choice that gives the whole party a bonus to initiative is great in a game where who strikes first and hardest (including a nova attack to take out key foes) is mighty.

Similarly, the Immediate Action Attacks (2 great ones at first level!) allow for "double taps"+ and movement.

But, you're correct that the Warlord really shines in a party with great BAs. Turns the Fighter (ostensibly a Defender) into an offensive menace. Same with Barbarian, many Rogues, STRaladins and STR Clerics, melee Rangers, and so on.
 


James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
One of the neat powers I remember using on a Warlord was an odd one. As a Daily, you could grant someone else what amounts to a Daily attack using either Strength or Dexterity.

Destructive Surprise

Daily
Martial, Weapon
Standard Action
Close Burst 10

Target: one ally within the burst

Effect: The target can make the following attack.

(Free Action) Range: melee or ranged weapon
Effect: The ally shifts 2 squares.
Target: One creature
Attack: Strength or Dexterity modifier vs. Reflex
Hit: 3[W] + Strength or Dexterity modifier.
Miss: Half damage.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
@James Gasik said it in much more detail then I would be able to dredge up. We saw Warlords fairly often for the Leader role, second only to Clerics. (As opposed to only one Ardent I ever remember, even less of them than Bards or Shamans.) Filled a archetype for the tactician that did it all by skill that is sorely missing - this is a genre staple that 5e is missing which is why it's sorely needed in my opinion, not because of any specific mechanics.

It granted bonuses to allow others to use their dailies even more effectively. Encounter long buffs. Tactical positioning. Really made melee allies shine. It exchanged leader at-will actions for striker damage. So it was a leader who was good at multiplying the group's output and could prefend to be a striker-by-proxy the rest of the time.

And I played a drill sgt. who freakin' cursed people back into the fight. "Did I say it was time for your nappy-poo?! No! Get up and keep fighting soldier. You don't get to lay down and play dead until I say you do."

On their own, the Warlord was unimpressive - like most of the leaders. But with buddies they had a good time. Really team players, kinda lost without them.

In 5e I play a Glamour Bard in one game, and their bardic inspiration sorta reminds me of a warlord - gives the party OA free movement and tHP. In a different game I play an Order Cleric and I'm always throwing buffs or heals on my party to trigger extra attacks. Both have Big Warlord Energy.
 
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Voadam

Legend
I played one. It was a great leader support class. I played one in a game with my young son and niece and using my powers to put the spotlight on them worked great for them enjoying the game.

In general giving your high damage striker types a higher percentage of the party's attacks seems a great action economy deal.
 



SteveC

Doing the best imitation of myself
The warlord is an amazing class. It does what the leader archetype says just about better than anyone else: it makes the party better.
I played a warlord all the way to high paragon tier (I remember it being level 18 when the campaign ended) and did amazing things.

My build was a "lazy warlord". Basically I played an old commander who looked like he was on his last legs. He just kept other people in the fight. If you remember Mickey "you're a BUM!" from Rocky, that was me.

My bread and butter was Commander's Strike, which lets an ally who can see/hear you take a basic attack. Most classes in 4E have powers that count as a basic attack, and the Essentials classes like the Thief and Slayer are based on them. Giving your best attacking characters extra attacks, and a bonus to damage is a chef's kiss. With a lazy warlord you don't have to worry about getting in position, you let the other characters who are good at that do it! As a bonus, you automatically focus fire, which is a big thing in 4E because early monsters just have a ton of HP.

Over the different levels, you can take a ton of powers so that you pretty much don't have to make attacks yourself. And you also get to do all of the party buffs and heals like a cleric.

So I'd put it as an excellent class as long as you tell your party to make sure to have some decent basic attacks.
 


Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Some great summaries in here. My groups saw them regularly- probably on par with Clerics or nearly so. The LazyLord build was definitely excellent, but not the only way to play it.

If you were the kind of player who enjoyed playing Leaders- characters that don't do massive damage themselves but buff/enable other characters to do so and are the clutch save the day healer, they were super fun.

For some players, often the kind of players who play Strikers, telling them, "Hey, get a free attack" NEVER got old. Seeing that joy on your friends' faces when you did that, or said on a clutch round when folks NEEDED a bad guy to go down, "By the way everyone, you're getting +4 to hit on this jerk now" or similar and the round of cheers broke out, was a continual source of pleasure.
 
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Incenjucar

Legend
I ran a 4E campaign for six years, and one of the players who joined me from start to finish was the dragonborn warlord player. They leaned hard into the role. Not only did they take over as (pirate) captain , but they also made a habit of adopting small monsters such as a young kobold and a fish-loving twigblight, and I let them incorporate their "sons" as flavor for their attacks.

Warlords are amazing, flavorful, keep players engaged, let people with support personalities give out fun little action gifts, lets characters actually use their non-magical attacks once in awhile... it's really just an exceptional addition to the game overall.
 

Dusting off my old 4E books and waxing nostalgic about the previous edition, I settled on reading the entry of the Warlord in the PHB. The class is often mentioned as a high point of 4E design, and many say they wish the class would've been ported over to 5E.
In actual play, I never saw a player take a Warlord. There were more psionic Ardents (I think that's the psychic leader). And why? It was in the first PHB, so it was around from the very beginning.
I'm looking over it now, and the powers seem incredibly situational and underwhelming. If you happen to be standing adjacent to a monster and an ally is also standing adjacent to the same monster, if you hit on an attack your ally can also make a basic attack (assuming they have a basic attack that's decent). Not to mention the dependence of needing multiple great ability scores (Strength to hit, Intelligence to give a bonus, Charisma to do something else, etc).
And this is the At-Will rock on which the church of Warlord is built? A class that only works in special circumstances with a very specific party (one based on basic attacks).
It seems one of the worst designed classes in that edition. Maybe it's fondly remembered because of bragging rights, overcoming the bad design to make a character who could contribute at just a few steps below every other Leader in the game?
This post reads as if it could come from another timeline. Warlords were consistently a very popular class in my and multiple other groups - and it's one of those things you probably need to see in play.

Mechanically you say that warlords are situational - sure, but they aren't that situational. Needing to have two of you in melee with the same foe is easily managed, and the key thing to remember is that the warlord doesn't (just) hit you with their axe - they hit you with the party barbarian or the sneak attacking rogue. This meant that warlords were leaders who in practice did almost striker level damage if the striker worked with them (and that synergy lead to more cohesive parties). And the strikers never got jealous - after all high damage was what they signed up for and the warlord was just making it higher.

You talk about Commander's Strike being situational - and yes it was. It's also one of your three at will attacks (with the third being your basic attack). You didn't use it all the time but when you did it was really effective. And what it did was not like anything else that had been seen before. (There were two other later related at wills - Direct the Strike which could be done at range, and the risky Brash Assault). You also talk about the Warlord being MAD - it isn't; instead any given warlord normally specialises in two stats.

But fundamentally the warlord breaks ground in terms of what you can do in 4e you can't do in any other edition in two obvious ways:
  • In terms of thematics an all martial party works (and works well). You don't need healing magic to get back on your feet. Which opens up a huge vistas of worldbuilding/usable worlds or low magic (possibly ritual magic only or even no magic) campaigns
  • In terms of characters the warlord lets you be a number of non-casting characters who really aren't able to pull their weight in other editions.
    • The tactician (obviously) who spots and exploits weaknesses for everyone
    • The grizzled sergeant/mentor who's no longer as fast or deadly as he was when younger but still has a lot to teach and can read a battlefield
    • The Damsel in Distress who inspires others to protect them
    • Multiple variations on the theme of "a joke character who causes utter chaos, distracting the enemy at the crucial moment"
    • The seemingly reckless guy, first into the fray, disrupting the enemy to let your allies follow up while the enemy is disorganised
 

glass

(he, him)
The Warlord had, from 1st level, abilities that let them give up their mediocre Leader attack to grant a Striker a bonus attack, which was not only an upgrade in of itself, but also allowed for the "Lazy Warlord" build, that never actually attacked themselves, but lent attacks to their Striker allies.
A key word here is "allowed" - lazy'lords get all the press, but you could probably create a Warlord character who never granted attacks. I doubt many people would actually make a Warlord like that, but I'd guess most would chart a middle course. I know the Warlord player in my group did. I never played a Warlord myself, sadly, but I did play a Bard (who have some attack granting, although not to warlord level) and I can vouch for its being a lot of fun to be able to say "I hit them with my Barbarian" .

For the record, I have seen one actual Warlord and one Captain (an hombrew port of the Warlord to PF1), and zero Ardents. EDIT: Now I am kinda sad I never got to see an Ardent, but I would not trade the Warlord for it.
 
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The reason warlord is the most 4e class is because it cares about positioning and teamwork more than any other class in the game. It’s also really, really, REALLY good at giving out both encounter long buffs and insane single round burst damage buffs.

obligatory story from the LFR epic campaign.

Fherul [tiefling warlord] had to bust out her combination of reorient the axis (everyone shifts 9) plus a power that lets everyone attack as a minor action for one round – naturally all this was done while the party was already under the effects of “reroll all attacks and choose the higher result” and various buffs to attack and damage rolls. To top it off, Fherul rolled a crit on her own attack, which thanks to the Legendary Sovereign epic destiny set off a party-wide cycle of basic attacks. When the dust cleared, three enemies were dead, which drastically cut down the amount of damage the PCs took over the remainder of the fight.
 

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