Character Class Choices

Once again, I’ve been inspired by the Chatty DM:  a few weeks ago, he raised some questions about character longevity in Dungeons and Dragons.  While I enjoy playing characters for long periods of time, I also enjoy variety.  My 12th level tiefling paladin just hit the 11th level, which is awesome; however, I have some other character concepts buzzing around, rotting in my brain, unplayed.

On a recent weekend trip, I made the decision to put Ayn on the shelf, at least for awhile.  This opens up a wealth of creative opportunity.  It also brings a burden of responsibility to the other players in my gaming group.  I already checked with them, and everyone seems inclined to keep their current characters, at least for now.  Now I need to create something that will fit in somewhat, from a narrative perspective, and not unbalance the group.

In addition to Ayn, we have Aelar the elven fighter, Leia the elven ranger, Rukh the dragonborn cleric and Higmvor the goliath barbarian.  In other words, we have a leader, two strikers and a defender.  Already I see that I should set aside my beast master ranger  and acrobatic rogue concepts.  What we really need is a controller.  The party also has no-one trained in arcane or thievery.

With the release of Player’s Handbook 3, there are four controller class options:  the (arcane) wizard, the (primal) druid, the (psionic) psion and the (divine) invoker.  Since I’ve been playing a paladin for over a year and a half, I’d rather avoid the divine based invoker.  And so, I am left with those first three choices, and my next steps are clear.  I need to familiarize myself with the mechanics involved and do a little research.  I have a good sense of how wizards work, but only the vaguest idea surrounding druids and psions.  What are the advantages and drawbacks for each class?

I have no interest in playing a tiefling, human or dwarf, and little interest in half elves, halflings or dragonborn. What races make for fun combinations with the classes I’m considering?

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7 Comments

Filed under 4e D&D, Character

7 responses to “Character Class Choices

  1. David

    I voted psion, because I am itching to play one myself, so you can tell me how they go. 🙂

    But you forgot the Seeker (primal controller) from PHB3, another controller class. I’d discount this, though, for the same reason I’d discount the druid – two elves in the party make it a pretty tree-huggy group as it is, and throwing a primal character into the mix doesn’t give any kind of new flavor. An arcane or psionic character would ‘pop’ against the other characters in the party, and add some texture to the group.

    • Matt S

      Primal needn’t equal “hippie”; both Aelar and Leia are martial terrors with no remarkable attachment to the wild. Higmwor is probably even more cosmopolitan than the elves, for a hillbilly barbarian.

      I’ve toyed around with the concept of urban primals, especially with the introduction of the swarm build. Animism doesn’t stop at the frontier, but permeates the city with new spirits arising from ancestral spirits, urban fauna, and human(oid) emotions. In the ecology of a settlement, these forces are as significant and powerful as a stalking leopard in the jungle or an oasis spring in the desert.

      The beauty of this concept as it applies to a certain group from Winterhaven is that it allows for a seeker or druid sporting Thievery as a class skill (by way of a background selection). It also means that you could multiclass into Rogue pretty easily (both primal controllers have a DEX build) so you don’t have to abandon your acrobatic rogue idea altogether.

  2. David

    (But, please God, *not* a shardmind.)

  3. Matt S

    I just realized I’ve played all controllers save the Invoker.

    The wizard is the one I’ve had the least experience with, but being the first, it forms the expectation of the role. The nice thing about the wizard is that you have the same level of versatility as the fighter in terms of concept and execution. Early spells revolved around area attacks, while later spells reflected a tighter definition of the role, and saw more conditions and terrain effects. Plus you have rituals out the wazoo, and cantrips to drive home the casual magic air.

    The druid is an oddball, but fun. He essentially operates in two modes: nature wizard and beast form. As such, a balanced build allows him to operate effectively at all ranges. My preference leans toward the predator build, but the swarm druid has some freaking awesome built right in. The druid is bound by this modal division, and is limited by their mode in the powers at their immediate disposal.

    The seeker is perhaps the weakest controller. While he has some nasty effects at hand, he suffers from the rules. He’s got a very poor weapon selection without spending a feat, and the majority of ranged weapons are low-accuracy while the seeker usually attacks AC. Other than that, the Seeker has some neat tricks up his sleeve, and strong skill selection to boot.

    The psion I’m not enamored with, for two reasons. First, their class features are pretty ho-hum compared to Arcane Implement Mastery or Primal Aspect; the one choice you make in this regard grants you two encounter powers, one of which is only cantrip-level. The second reason is that the “versatility” (to quote the designers) Augmentation provides is a matter of degree, not utility. I’d argue that a Psion is less versatile than his unaugmented peers, even if he does get three at-wills. On the other hand, if you want to play an ascetic master of the mind, or a character even nerdier than a wizard, or just want to run roughshod over your enemy’s free will, this can be a fun class.

  4. Galen

    Here are some of my thoughts on good racial combinations for the Classes you’re considering. Tier one being races that have a great combination of stat, feat and racial power synergy. Tier 2 not quite as good as the first group, but still a good fit.

    (sorted alphabetically)

    Druid: Tier 1:
    Bladeling
    Dwarf
    Elf
    Githzerai
    Human
    Razorclaw Shifter
    Wilden

    Druid: Tier 2:
    Deva
    Kobold
    Longtooth Shifter
    Minotaur
    Shardmind

    Wizard: Tier 1:
    Deva
    Genasi
    Githyanki
    Githzerai
    Gnome
    Human
    Shardmind

    Wizard: Tier 2:
    Eladrin
    Shadar-kai
    Tiefling

    Psion: Tier 1:
    Deva
    Githzerai
    Gnome
    Shardmind
    Tiefling

    Psion: Tier 2:
    Eladrin
    Genasi
    Githyanki
    Human
    Shadar-kai

  5. Thanks for the input and analysis, all!

    A day ago, I was in love with the druid, today it was mostly all about the wizard. Now I’m reading over the Psion and my intrigue grows.

    Our party really needs Arcana and Thievery training, but other than that, it’s still pretty wide open.

  6. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the Seeker also a Primal controller? You did not list them as an option…perchance because you’re not enamored with the concept, which I understand, as neither am I!

    Flavorwise, the Seeker seems to be the part of the 3.5 ranger which deals with the aspects of a martial defender of nature, whereas the 4.0 version seems to focus exclusively on the martial training, eschewing the link to nature that the 3.5 version also had, which I tend to prefer personally.

    My personal vote is for the Psion, especially if you fancy the Telekinetic build. I have a Deva Psion built up with the concept that she’s a recent reincarnate that has no idea what these weird powers are that she possesses, but being of good heart (and alignment), has hidden herself away in an abandoned building of a mining town to minimize the damage her uncontrolled powers cause. Once the other PCs find her and calm her down/realize her powers/help her exert control over them (skill challenge wooo), she naturally transitions into the role of “these powers were given to me by the deity I worship for a specific reason for this lifetime, ergo I should strive to help others while developing my abilities”.

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