Fourth Edition: Class Features and Elementson July 23, 2012 at 10:30 am
So, I’ve been working on all these little pieces of a great big game mechanics puzzle – attack ranges, effect types, all these weird little doodads that have to be able to work both independently of one another, and together in a wibbly-wobbly ball of crunchy mechanical goodness. Since I’m playing a dwarf warden, I thought I’d start there.
Previously, I was dissecting the various powers and abilities of classes to find the lowest-common denominator in effect types, so I could reasonably build a new class from the bottom up – each class is essentially built from a combination of three things (not including weapons or armor):
* Source feature (arcane, divine, martial, primal, etc.)
* Role feature (defender, striker, controller, leader)
* Class feature (unique, special snowflake power)
I stopped referring to them as “encounter powers” (even though they still carry a certain amount of “encounter equivalence”) because I realized when I investigated further that most of the effects are just ascended feat effects. Some are more useful than others, but that’s about where I draw the line in uniqueness.
Several things about each class simply don’t matter:
* Weapon, armor, and implement proficiencies
* Class defense bonus
* Skill training
The first three things don’t matter because there is so little separating one weapon from another (there are clear winners and losers in this case) that either you choose to optimize your weapons, armor, or implements, or you choose not to – they don’t matter enough otherwise to bother. Not optimizing means you don’t fight well.
The class defense bonus is so small as to be basically irrelevant. Having a plus-two to defense from your class means you don’t necessarily have to take the associated feat to boost your defense (but you should do it anyway), and having two plus-ones means you should definitely take both if they fit in your feat budget.
As previously discussed, Skills are so poorly integrated in the game as to mean essentially nothing, so having more or less Skill training only matters when your DM doesn’t know how to compensate for the group not having Skills X, Y, or Z. Really, the skills don’t matter (much as they didn’t in Third Edition).
People don’t play Dungeons & Dragons for the skill system.
Going back to the above features building an effective class is now just a matter of understanding of what each element brings to the table: role, source, and … uniqueness. Really, the unique, special power is just whatever gimmick the class happens to use to catch your attention – like Rune stances or whatever.