Here’s a throwback to an earlier post. It’s relevant to this post.

Tier System for Roles (Jun 24, 2013)

This is not a list of the roles in how they rank against each other, but a method by which classes within the same role may be ranked against one another. I think the majority of classes are more or less equal, despite differences in presentation, however some classes execute their functions more efficiently than others.

Damage bonus (required)
Accuracy bonus
Encounter damage
Rate of Fire
Damage “flavor”

A striker must have a damage bonus, whether this takes the form of bonus dice or a secondary ability score. A striker also wants an accuracy bonus of some kind, whether this means their attack bonus, or they roll against a defense other than Armor Class.

With every class regardless of role, the encounter power should reinforce the role — but sometimes a class has a secondary role beyond the standard four roles. I haven’t devoted a whole lot of research to those just yet, but that’s another thing.

“Rate of Fire” might not seem immediately obvious, but you’ll notice a difference in strikers with basic attacks, or should they happen to derive their bonus damage from charging — if their damage is limited to a per-attack, per-turn, or per-round basis.

Energy types bring with them advantages and disadvantages. Depending on the class, some may have one or two energy types they alternate between, and some have associated conditions (radiant & blindness, necrotic & weakened, etc). Not always necessary, but advantageous when vulnerabilities are considered.

Damage prevention (required)
Opportunity action
Encounter protection
Immediate action
Prevention “flavor”

A defender must have a means of preventing damage, and majority of published defender classes use either the Marked condition or the Defender Aura power. Secondary powers are generally used to “punish” enemies, such as the fighter’s Combat Challenge or the Paladin’s Divine Sanction.

Defenders have two special types of actions that they generally utilize better than other roles — Opportunity and Immediate actions. Opportunity Attacks are the only basic Opportunity action afforded to everyone, and the only way to receive an Immediate action normally is to use the convoluted action-Readying mechanic.

There are a couple different flavors of damage-prevention: temporary hit points, there’s straight-up damage reduction, there’s redirection (often to the defender himself), and there’s boosting an ally’s defenses or reducing the attacker’s roll.

Action denial (required)
Area of Effect
Encounter denial
Effect “flavor”

Action denial is at the heart of every controller class, whether it’s forcing the target to spend an action standing up or re-positioning, or simply taking them away with Dazing or Stunning, or with something more dramatic like Sleep. It’s what a controller does.

Area of Effect powers are the second defining feature of the controller role — the ability to affect an area. This is often with damage, and often with Blast or Burst effects, but it can take on any number of different forms, like auras and zones.

Conditions are where a lot of controller classes tend to break down — well, a good balance of reliable conditions combined with area-of-effect powers and action denial is hard to achieve — but it’s these three things that define a good controller.

Not every controller needs all three, but if a controller lacks one, they have to make up for it in a different area, and if they lack two, they really have to make up for it in the third area. Most published controllers fail at all three — denial, AoE, and conditions.

Here, perhaps more than any other role, we see the need for diverse keywords and effect types. Strikers have damage types and defenders have prevention types, and controllers — they have weird effect bundles. This is where the importance of conjurations, summons, walls, auras, stances, and zones becomes apparent.

Enable action (required)
Reward action
Encounter enable/reward

The first thing a good leader class should do is enable actions — generally this will be by providing something a character needs, enabling them to spend their turn doing something else. Most often, healing party members saves them healing themselves.

But enabling actions comes in a lot of different forms — granting an extra attack is usually more effective than healing, and sometimes granting a move action (like standing a character up from prone) or granting a save can be what’s needed.

Good leaders also have a way of creating incentives for certain kinds of actions — “attack this guy and you get an attack or damage bonus” or perhaps “attack this guy for some real or temporary hit points.” That’s how leaders can “reward” actions.

Recovery is an important trick in the leader’s book, and often overlaps with enabling and rewarding actions — this is whatever the leader does that helps turn a losing situation into a win (or helping the party to survive). This is again, usually a healing power. Often “the” healing power — but it doesn’t have to be!

Finally, we have the “cohort” option, which is what many leaders lack most. This turns up in the form of summons, companions, and minions. The shaman is the primary example of a “more complete” leader class, but it’s deficient in other ways.

In many ways, the Beastmaster Ranger is a leader, as is the Summoner Wizard. Oftentimes leaders can’t wade directly into battle because they have to hang back and direct the fight — and that’s why having a companion in the fray is so important.

This last one comes straight from the Third Edition Leadership feat itself — having the Leadership feat enables a character of 6th level or higher to attract a cohort, who often takes the form of a lower-level adventurer. Friend, lieutenant, or whatever.

Well, that wraps up the basics of the Tier System for Roles. I’ll hack this up and revise it to give it a permanent place on the site, but that’s the whole of it for now.