When I showed my Hellraiser class to my gaming group about a month ago, one of the players commented that it was a “top tier” striker based on its damage output, and as I recall, compared it to the Essentials fire elementalist.

The Hellraiser (May 24, 2013)

Something about his comment got me thinking about the differences in how classes approach the roles. Without being strictly “weaker,” some classes seem to represent their respective roles more effectively than others — usually with some drawback.

Over the weekend, I re-categorized class features based on the classes I’ve built in the last couple months, and I created a sort of “tier system for class features” for each of the roles. Well, I’m still working on the leader, but I expect to finish it soon.

Now the important thing to note about these class features is that rather than ranking how powerful or effective a class feature or role is, it determines the main points a role has to hit in order to be considered a more “focused” role-based class.

In other words, a striker’s role is to deal damage. To deal damage effectively, it generally needs bonus dice (Hunter’s Quarry, Warlock’s Curse, Sneak Attack, etc.), or a secondary ability score as with the Blackguard, Slayer, or Vampire.

A striker must also be able to hit to deal damage, which means they either need a static bonus to accuracy such as Weapon Talent, they need to target Non-Armor Defenses (NADs), or they need a conditional modifier that encourages a particular play style, such as the Rogue is with Sneak Attack and Combat Advantage.

Another important effect is a striker’s “rate of fire,” which can be difficult to quantify but can otherwise be observed in whether their striker powers are Basic Attacks (and thus can be granted via Leader class) or limited to once per round, or their own turn.

…Or if they’re otherwise limited to encounter or daily powers. Some classes, such as the Fighter and Paladin, have encounter powers that deal Ability A + Ability B modifier damage, or have stances or other dailies that boost their damage output, effectively turning them into strikers for a round, or sometimes an entire encounter.

Finally, a striker can have a “damage flavor,” which is often a venue for them to pick up some thematically-related conditions or effects to whatever the “flavor” is. For a fire-themed striker this might involve ongoing damage like “setting your foes on fire.”

A “top-tier striker” would have some answer to each of these, and moreover would have some encounter power that supported their striking role. Each class is a little different however, and most splash the features of at least two roles together.

I have a hypothesis that any given class can trade defense for ranged attacks (given the propensity for melee powers in the game), which I will elaborate on later.