Sat down and talked about class identity with one of the guys from my Saturday D&D game. One of my posts from mid-October about class identity has had him thinking about the Fourth Edition classes and so we finally hashed out a list of various 4e classes that have a semblance of identity. Here are a couple that made the list:
Of the “Classic” Fourth Edition character classes, we narrowed the list down to about ten. From the Player’s Handbook/Class Compendium, we picked out the cleric/templar, the fighter/weaponmaster, and the warlord/marshal. I argued for the templar because of all the leaders it exploited the “vulnerability” mechanic.
Vulnerability is one of those things that’s best left to class features instead of stat blocks. It’s incredibly frustrating to try and keep track of as a game master, and I think rather than assigning “fire” or “radiant” vulnerability to undead, it makes more sense to have clerics enable vulnerabilities to those energy types – it’s tactically diverse.
The marshal by comparison, provided many different types of granted attacks in addition to modifying ally action points – in fact, of all the leaders the warlord appeared simultaneously the most effective and quite probably overpowered.
The weaponmaster made the list by virtue of the Brawler and Rageblood Vigor class features, which utilize the temporary hit point system and grappling rules respectively. Each feature modifies the class in interesting ways rather than inventing new rules as a few of the other martial classes do (ranger and rogue, I’m looking at you).
The ranger was left off the list because Essentials classes exist that make more effective use of its class features. The scout and hunter surpass the ranger in two-weapon fighting and ranged control and the sentinel, while one of the worst leaders (on par with the bard), streamlined and simplified beast companion rules.
The rogue is all over the place in terms of effectiveness. While it uses Dexterity for many of its attacks, its defenses and low Constitution make it one of the squishier strikers. The most effective rogue we’ve found was a harrier who remained nearly invisible throughout the fight, providing low but consistent damage, and debuffs.
All in all, the rogue just didn’t bring anything new or interesting to the board (unlike the ranger spin-offs or the fighter choices), and it didn’t even make particularly effective use of the features it was supposed to be good at. The “thief” essentials version had some interesting ideas but needs an extensive overhaul to work well.
I’ll add more of the list as I find time.