Hide Armor Expertise: Discussion

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Hello, boys,

One of the things I've heard the most buzz about since I've been back (apart from the wave of errata) is the Hide Armor Expertise feat, which allows Hide users to add Con to their AC rather than Dex. Opinions vary on this, but I've looked at my old numbers, and come to the following conclusions:

1. For Shamans, this could almost be considered a feat tax (they need 2 feats: Hide Armor Proficiency, which saddles them with an otherwise useless Str of 13, and Hide Armor Expertise), were it not for the fact that Constitution is a very good attribute to have, since it makes them and their spirit tougher, which makes the Shaman exponentially tougher because of the effective DR his spirit affords him. So it's worth the investment, as I think it'd be a little too good to hand out for free (since they don't have any use for Strength, and thus their Fort defense hinges on their Constitution, so it's not like they're boosting the same defense here).

2. For Barbarians, this is definitely not a feat tax, considering the Whirler and Thaneborn exist, but instead a way for the Rageblood Barbarian to keep pace with other Strikers in his own way. Let's face it, folks: the Barbarian's accuracy isn't the best in the world (no constant accuracy bonus, drawn to +2 proficiency weapons, you catch my drift), so his DPR values aren't gonna match the Ranger or even the Rogue (I'm sure the gap has shrunk since Bloodclaw and Reckless are six feet under, but the gap was monumental before...), and with Hurricane of Blades and Storm of Blades getting the nerfbat, you have to have SOME perks for the big guy. The point is that finally, we have the Rageblood Barbarian that can function as the secondary Defender we were all promised when PHB 2 hit the shelves. His AC, Fort, and HP will be relatively high, but his Ref and Will are gonna be low (sort of like a Fighter). This greatly increases his survivability, though, because AC is the defense that is most targeted on the frontlines. I think it's less of a feat tax than going for Heavy Armor (which saps your speed), which is what most of Barbarian players were resorting to, because they were quite simply getting hit too much, which would never allow you to use all those powers where you hack off your own HP for fun and profit. My final point is, this makes full-on Str/Con Rageblood Barbarian builds viable again, because believe me that with some of the errata, it didn't really look worth playing. You'll have 2 bad NAD's instead of 1, BUT your HP is better than any other Barbarian's, and you might just have a bit more AC, making you the ultimate frontiliner. Oh yeah, almost forgot: everything I said applies to the Thunderborn (which doesn't look impressive at all, but I haven't really looked at it yet...).

Thoughts, as always, are welcome.
I agree with you. STR CON barbarian players really tend to ignore the NAD problem they are having, and with Hide Armor Expertise they got a feat that is making it even easier for them to ignore the issue. I think this truly is the balancing factor. In a real game they will find themselves subjected to auto-hits on REF and WILL all the time, particularly in higher levels. And those attacks deal the most un-fun effects on a class that depends so much on mobility and being able to act. Most DM's will automatically exploit this glaring weakness, and rightfully so. It seems true that the STR/CON rageblood barbarian is indeed the dumb brute everybody always thought he is. Now make the mistake and take a STR/CON race as well and you are in for the gutter. Thankfully you can build rageblood barbarians that are not like that, and there are the other class variations.
A barbarian with 14 starting Dex (which isn't bad at all if you are a Blade user) has the same AC as Chain- Chain AC is survivable especially when you have Defender level HP and surges and powers that generate THP- Battleragers do it. 

Yes you get hit more than an AC OPTIMIZED SWORDMAGE or FULL HEAVY ARMOR PALADIN without Hide expertise (Because with it and a defensive Dual weapon you can get higher than them) but you are also easier to heal than any other striker and become more appealing than the enemies trying to surround your ranged casters.  One they've surrounded you, you can take advantage of your awesome close bursts.  For the damage gap, you must have missed how powerful charging can become- I haven't seen official math done yet post errata but I'm confident it's not big enough to justify having 4 higher AC than normal.

What really gets me is how often Hide armor has ways to become uniformly better than plate- no penalites after the paragon mastery compared to speed loss and -2 or -4 to skills with shield.  If there was a feat that shortcutted barbarians to wearing Plate to "make up for the AC" it'd be much less a problem than HAE.

There's also the aspect of why do ragebloods only pump STR/CON- the CON Riders without Storm of Blades aren't THAT Amazing that you can't afford to drop 2 pumps into another stat- my Thaneborn needs 17 Con for Axe Mastery at 21, Ragebloods should be spending their stats elsewhere as well.
Hi LDB,

well, its more than just a heavy armor replacement for barbarians, since you can add +Con AND +3 from your class feature to AC, resulting in swordmage-level AC. Its also a big boon for swarm druids (Con secondary), since they now get both Con DR and Con to AC. A good discussion on Hide expertise can be found here (mosty people disagreeing about brokenness , but also in part a good analysis).
I think most people are fine with HAE, really.  It's just that the minority that aren't tend to be extremely vocal about it.  I've only had experience in Heroic, but 3-4 temps when you kill something is not enough to make you a secondary defender.

People complain that Barb is too good now, but I play with an optimized rogue, and he still outdamages me.  Even though I have combat advantage nearly as often as he, I still have worse accuracy.

As for shamans, I agree that it's a feat tax.  There is no reason shaman shouldn't get access to hide armor right from the start IMO.

And with respect to swarm druids, the DR alone doesn't mean a whole lot if their AC is in the gutter.  This build was also made to be a pseudo-defender, and they can't do that without decent AC.
Yeah, I realize his AC can get pretty crazy (my calculations capped it out at about 50), BUT think about it.

1. You have 2 bad NAD's instead of 1. That's not good, especially for a Barbarian who likes to charge about like a crazy person that he is.

2. This only happens if you're a full Str/Con Rageblood. That's a pretty limited bit, and most of the AC bonuses come by circa Epic Tier, so it's not more gamebreaking than most others' Epic tricks.

3. Compare the Barbarian's DPR to most other Strikers'. Go on. I dare you. He needs some perks to keep pace with the Ranger and the Rogue.
The topic was already discussed to death here: community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758...

And here: community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758...


Keep in mind that this was post-november nerf, but a lot of it still makes sense.

One huge problem that you completely missed was that it's too easy for classes who aren't supposed to have it to get it. Major offenders are Battlerager fighters and hybrid Con wardens who want to take Hybrid Talent (something else).

It's also messed up with Swarm Druids. Someone ran the numbers and found that Swarm Druid DR is roughly equivalent to having a secondary stat to AC. With both, they're far too durable (kinda like Battlerager, but less DR and it works on every attack except AoEs). It makes the other Con druid option largely inferior as well.


3. Compare the Barbarian's DPR to most other Strikers'. Go on. I dare you. He needs some perks to keep pace with the Ranger and the Rogue.



Rangers could generate much higher numbers if they blew all of their dailies, much Barbs could generate crazy novas every single encounter (and sometimes more often if you could get those key encounter powers back). It's a different kind of nova capacity - trade the upper limit on damage for the ability to do it more often. Some would view that as even more useful than Rangers' ability to outright kill everything in one turn if they need to. Even post-nerf, Barbs are still pretty decent at encounter-novas, just not sickeningly good at it like they used to be.

I don't dislike Hide Armour Expertise the way some people vehemently seem to. I do think it needs one, minor, tweak however. Simply add an addendum that prohibits the use of Armoured Agility with this feat. The easiest way to do that, I'm guessing, would be to simply state that when using this feat a character in hide counts as wearing heavy armour. This change also makes it much less appealing for BattleRagers, which is something else people seem concerned about. 

Done & dusted.

That could just be me though....

~Bizkit

 

Playing the devil's advocate a bit here, for the sake of discussion.  I think you undersell the Barbarian's damage output and defenses a bit.  Your concerns:

Accuracy:  Nothing stops a Barbarian from picking up a Fullblade and having accuracy just as good as other Strikers.  Against the basic Longsword/Bastard sword the Rogue and Ranger prefer, you have the same proficiency bonus.  Rogue wins accuracy with Dagger, but it's d4 damage die vs d12.  The Rogue could sink two feats for Rapier + Nimble Blade to get +1 accuracy with CA, while the Ranger could sink a feat in Paragon to get Prime Shot while soloing an enemy.

Meanwhile, the Barbarian is perfectly happy to hammer enemies with Charge powers, which grant an inherent +1 attack bonus.  He gets Rages later that outright grant him Combat Advantage against enemies he attacks for the whole encounter.  If anything, the Barbarian is equally or more accurate, if he wants to be. 

AC Defenses:  Barbarian AC is even better than you point out.  There is an easily accessible armor, Marauder's Armor, that grants an untyped, scaling tier bonus to AC until the end of the next turn, whenever you charge.  It even stacks with itself, so you can layer that AC if you charge every turn, or even more times per turn with AP/Warlord, etc.  Being a Barbarian, you have the most incentive of perhaps any class in the game to charge, and the utilities to make charging every turn viable.  If that's not enough, you can eliminate OAs entirely while charging with the dirt cheap Neck Slot item, Badge of the Berserker.  Both of these items are in AV2.  At Epic, Marauder's Armor amounts to +3 AC (sometimes +6), on top of +3 Barbarian Agility.  Barbarian AC isn't just good, it's solid.

Non-AC Defensers:  For one, you can go Whirler and still have respectable damage while having awesome defenses.  You lose out on Temp HPs and Base HPs/surges, though, so it's a bit of a wash.  It's not desirable having two dumped defenses, but no one is complaining about the Battlerager, Earthstrength Warden, or Wis/Chaladin being worse than other builds because of doubling up on a NACD.  I actually started a thread about this some time ago, and several people passionately argued against solo-NACD builds having a significant weakness compared to balanced builds. 

Damage:  As pointed out earlier, there are a multitude of items available to optimize charge damage, which the Barbarian can better take advantage of than other Strikers.  With a simple Horned Helm, the Barbarian's "bonus damage" on Howling Strike is better than Quarry/Curse damage in Heroic, and roughly on par with Sneak Attack.  I would expect their sustained damage to be on par or greater than any class except perhaps the Ranger. 

Summary:  The Barbarian has a combination of the highest AC among Strikers (the most important and commonly attacked Defense), the highest sustained damage, and a competitive attack bonus.  Being extremely good at both offense and defense, and having better HP/Surges than any other Striker, the Barbarian starts to look like the best Striker across the board; perhaps even the best overall class in the game.  


Builds and Guides The Cosmonaut a build that teleports foes into space. November Errata Item Guide a guide to equipping Avengers and Strikers after the November errata. 100% Crit Rate Ardent Champion an Avenger combo that autocrits and/or inflicts infinite damage at level 11.

The brb of my group is very, very good. He has defender HP, great damage, plenty of healing surges... and an AC just 1 point under the defender. 

On the other side, my rogue does not have combat advantage all the turns... just a few for each encounter. So, the brb does more damage than me... Including that I have to preserve my health and not get attacked, because if it happens my healing surges are done before the end of the adventure. My AC is ok, = to the defender AC, just 1 higher than the brb AC. That is not significant to expose my rogue and have all my healing surges gone. The brb can get all the exposition he wants, and continue until the end with the number of HS he has.


Yes, this feat made the brb better defender than our defender.

Attacks that target NADs are situational, the common situation is against AC. So, for the majority of the encounters he is great,but for the specific ones he will let others show some value

Playing the devil's advocate a bit here, for the sake of discussion.  I think you undersell the Barbarian's damage output and defenses a bit.  Your concerns:

Accuracy:  Nothing stops a Barbarian from picking up a Fullblade and having accuracy just as good as other Strikers.  Against the basic Longsword/Bastard sword the Rogue and Ranger prefer, you have the same proficiency bonus.  Rogue wins accuracy with Dagger, but it's d4 damage die vs d12.  The Rogue could sink two feats for Rapier + Nimble Blade to get +1 accuracy with CA, while the Ranger could sink a feat in Paragon to get Prime Shot while soloing an enemy.

Meanwhile, the Barbarian is perfectly happy to hammer enemies with Charge powers, which grant an inherent +1 attack bonus.  He gets Rages later that outright grant him Combat Advantage against enemies he attacks for the whole encounter.  If anything, the Barbarian is equally or more accurate, if he wants to be. 


A Rageblood Barb focusing on CON for HAE will never meet the requirements for heavy blade mastery, which is going to put him far behind the ranger or rogue.  Ragebloods mainly use axes or hammers, which are all +2 prof.

Charging is great, but it is also very easy for a DM to shut down.  Take into account your dismal REF and WILL, and all those immobilizes/forced movement/whatever else is pretty much guaranteed to hit.

AC Defenses:  Barbarian AC is even better than you point out.  There is an easily accessible armor, Marauder's Armor, that grants an untyped, scaling tier bonus to AC until the end of the next turn, whenever you charge.  It even stacks with itself, so you can layer that AC if you charge every turn, or even more times per turn with AP/Warlord, etc.  Being a Barbarian, you have the most incentive of perhaps any class in the game to charge, and the utilities to make charging every turn viable.  If that's not enough, you can eliminate OAs entirely while charging with the dirt cheap Neck Slot item, Badge of the Berserker.  Both of these items are in AV2.  At Epic, Marauder's Armor amounts to +3 AC (sometimes +6), on top of +3 Barbarian Agility.  Barbarian AC isn't just good, it's solid.


I don't think it's really fair to argue that a feat is overpowered because of a couple of items.  Personally, I've never played in a campaign where any magic item is "easily accessible" or "dirt cheap."  A lot of DM's don't allow you to just stroll into Ye Olde Magic Item Shoppe and buy whatever you can look up in the CB.  Besides this, charging is not a Barbarian-specific advantage.  There are charge builds for rogues, fighters, and other classes as well that could make the same use of these items.

Non-AC Defensers:  For one, you can go Whirler and still have respectable damage while having awesome defenses.  You lose out on Temp HPs and Base HPs/surges, though, so it's a bit of a wash.  It's not desirable having two dumped defenses, but no one is complaining about the Battlerager, Earthstrength Warden, or Wis/Chaladin being worse than other builds because of doubling up on a NACD.  I actually started a thread about this some time ago, and several people passionately argued against solo-NACD builds having a significant weakness compared to balanced builds. 

  Your first point is a great argument in favor of HAE - a Whirler can have comparable defenses without it.  Is it horribly broken that a Rageblood can spend a feat to match a Whirler's natural AC, just as a Whirler can catch up to Ragebloods HP/surges with Durable and a background?

It seems people keep forgetting that barbarian agility applies to Ref as well as AC. It may not close the gap entirely, but you can hardly say the a barbarians reflex suffers. a Rageblood with starting 12 dex is equivilent to a 14 dex ref defense. 16 after racials is not uncommon for a secondary stat, meaning the barbarian is only 1 point behind. this drops by another point at level 8, jumps back to 1 point difference at level 11 and back to 2 at level 14, jumps back to a 1 point difference at level 21 and then back to a 2 point difference at level 28... assuming it's compared to someone with a starting secondary of 16 that boosts that secondary each level.... and the barbarian never boosts his dex beyond 12 (+11/21 boosts). Sure, the will defense suffers, but very few classes get 3 good NADs. You can hardly say a barbarians reflex is really that poor. The reason that barbarian agility failed with AC was because AC is targeted so much more often, and there was stil no compensation for shield/ defensive/TWDefense,which put the difference closer to 3-4 points.


I also have to argue thevalidity of claiming that HAE isn't broken because it compares well with the whirler, when it has not been determined where the whirler fits in the balance scales yet, given it came in the same book that granted the feat in question. The whirler may be just as unbalanced, but of course, it can't be because it compares well to a rageblood with HAE, so it can't possibly be broken, right?
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I don't think it's really fair to argue that a feat is overpowered because of a couple of items.  Personally, I've never played in a campaign where any magic item is "easily accessible" or "dirt cheap."  A lot of DM's don't allow you to just stroll into Ye Olde Magic Item Shoppe and buy whatever you can look up in the CB.  Besides this, charging is not a Barbarian-specific advantage.  There are charge builds for rogues, fighters, and other classes as well that could make the same use of these items.




With Enchant Magic Item, you have access to any item you could afford regardless of the existence of Ye Olde Magic Item Shoppes.  Further, the DMG encourages DMs to get wishlists from players and give them the items they want.  The standard assumption of the game is that you can get the items you want, so pointing out items that make charging (the barbarian's specialty) better is definitely relevant.  Further, even if you wanted to go against the base assumptions of the game and assume that the barbarian isn't getting what he wants, you'd then have to apply the same assumptions to any rogue or ranger build you're comparing it to; taking away their favored items will similarly drop their DPR a great deal.

Charger builds are not specific to barbarians, but other than the Fey Charger, barbarians tend to be better at it and, with Swift Charge, get to use it more often, so they benefit more from charge boosts.

A Rageblood Barb focusing on CON for HAE will never meet the requirements for heavy blade mastery, which is going to put him far behind the ranger or rogue.  Ragebloods mainly use axes or hammers, which are all +2 prof.


But he'll have Hammer Rhythm, which is certainly a non trivial benefit for having 1 less attack bonus than rangers (assuming they didnt use waraxes) or 2 behind Dagger rogues.  There are others ways one can get an extended crit range as well- like Radiant weapons and certain paragons.

Charging is great, but it is also very easy for a DM to shut down.  Take into account your dismal REF and WILL, and all those immobilizes/forced movement/whatever else is pretty much guaranteed to hit.



Being pushed makes it easier to repeatedly charge actually.  A ranger would never charge as it means no Twin Strike.  Likewise a rogue would rather throw dagger an At Will than charge- though likely not getting SA.  If the DM is At will spamming Nad targeted immobilize all your meleer's are in trouble, because everyone has at least one weak nad.

Your first point is a great argument in favor of HAE - a Whirler can have comparable defenses without it.  Is it horribly broken that a Rageblood can spend a feat to match a Whirler's natural AC, just as a Whirler can catch up to Ragebloods HP/surges with Durable and a background?



And the Thaneborn stays behind- but Thaneborns are fine compared to other strikers, so Whirlers are also broken.  The HP backgrounds are bad news too.
All right, plenty of comments! This discussion is plenty productive... Good.

@Scatterbrained: The thing is, the rituals ensure you won't even need a Ye Olde Magic Shoppe. The days of limiting item combinations because they could be broken are past. It's easier than ever to get what you need. So there has to be another balancing factor.

@Ytterbium_Dragon: When I say DPR, I mean round-by-round At-Will damage, not nova damage. This being said, the Barbarian is dead last in that category. His damage on a hit is up there with the best of them; the thing is, he doesn't hit nearly as much as most of the other Strikers. Although Encounter novas are pretty good, the fact of the matter is that one of them is ruled by your accuracy, which makes it poorly siuted to pull it off without help, and the other comes by at L27, and by then the Ranger has all kinds of crazy Encounter powers he can do (can you say Death Rend and 2 Minor Action Encounter Powers for a nova that Stuns every encounter?). The fact of the matter is, the Barb is not as damaging as the Ranger or the Rogue because of the lower accuracy. Let him have his HP and defense.

@Outshined: Trouble is, Weapon Mastery is an integral part of what you do as a Melee character, especially a Barbarian who has the Rampage class feature hinging on it. That means you gravitate to weapons who can take advantage of your sky-high Con, which means Axes and Hammers, which in turn means +2 proficiency. Rangers have the Prime Punisher/Prime Shot feat tree to increase their accuracy and damage vs. isolated opponents (not to mention the whole multiple attacks business), Rogues have Rogue Weapon Talent, easy access to Combat Advantage and hit NAD's with frightening regularity, and Avengers are similar to Rangers in that they roll everything at least twice. Not only that, but most of these guys run +3 proficiency weapons, making the gap even bigger. The Barbarian may have those cool Encounter powers, but they're useless if they don't hit.

If it gets too out of hand, I'd just ad hoc rule that Hide Armor Expertise doesn't stack with the AC bonus granted by Barbarian Agility.
From the Con Shaman point of view, the feat is less than worthless, it's actively harmful. Shamans used to put 13 in Str, take chain, and forget about it; if they want to use HAE, they need the same stat waste, but have to spend two feats. For most, it's not worth it, considering it's 0-1 extra AC over chain.
A very solid point. Unless you're going to sink 3 feats into your AC (Armor Proficiency (hide), Hide Armor Expertise, and Second Skin at Epic), you're not going to be paid dividends (at this point, you get +3 AC and +1 speed relative to the Chain wearer if you have 26 Con by L30) for picking this feat as a Shaman.

I don't dislike Hide Armour Expertise the way some people vehemently seem to. I do think it needs one, minor, tweak however. Simply add an addendum that prohibits the use of Armoured Agility with this feat. The easiest way to do that, I'm guessing, would be to simply state that when using this feat a character in hide counts as wearing heavy armour. This change also makes it much less appealing for BattleRagers, which is something else people seem concerned about. 

Done & dusted.

That could just be me though....

~Bizkit

 




That wouldn't help deal with swarm druids or the aforementioned hybrid wardens.
Charging is great, but it is also very easy for a DM to shut down. ... A lot of DM's don't allow you to just stroll into Ye Olde Magic Item Shoppe and buy whatever you can look up in the CB.


     I prefer to leave Oberoni's Fallacy in 3e where it might've had some credence.  4e's philosophy calls for letting players shine, even finding ways to do so, not shutting them down.  As has already been pointed out, it also allows people to have wish lists.  It's a bold step for WotC, surrendering the protection of claiming balance is the DM's responsibility and shouldering the burden fully themselves.  I salute them for it.  Is it really worth taking a tremendous step backwards in game philosophy just so that nobody will notice that a particular class or feat is exceptionally powerful?
(I employ zie/zie/zir as a gender-neutral counterpart to he/him/his. Just a heads-up.) Essentials definitely isn't for me as a player, and I feel that its design and implementation bear serious flaws which fill me with concern for the future of D&D, but I've come to the conclusion that it isn't going to destroy the game that I want to play. Indeed, I think that I could probably run a game for players using Essentials characters without it being much of a problem at all. Time will tell, I suppose.
Well, since I hear the issue concerning the Swarm Druid and the Hybrid Warden as well as the Rageblood Barbarian, maybe stacking some prerequisites on it (the Feral Might class feature, for one) could help tone it down somewhat...
Well, since I hear the issue concerning the Swarm Druid and the Hybrid Warden as well as the Rageblood Barbarian, maybe stacking some prerequisites on it (the Feral Might class feature, for one) could help tone it down somewhat...



Yeah, we already came to the conclusion that it needs tweaking due to several problems. We discussed this for a long time and there were a few ideas that would work, IMO. Now we're just waiting for the errata team to deal with it. There really isn't much left to discuss that hasn't already been addressed.
Charging is great, but it is also very easy for a DM to shut down. ... A lot of DM's don't allow you to just stroll into Ye Olde Magic Item Shoppe and buy whatever you can look up in the CB.


     I prefer to leave Oberoni's Fallacy in 3e where it might've had some credence.  4e's philosophy calls for letting players shine, even finding ways to do so, not shutting them down.  As has already been pointed out, it also allows people to have wish lists.  It's a bold step for WotC, surrendering the protection of claiming balance is the DM's responsibility and shouldering the burden fully themselves.  I salute them for it.  Is it really worth taking a tremendous step backwards in game philosophy just so that nobody will notice that a particular class or feat is exceptionally powerful?


This.


I think it's useful to realize that the wishlist isn't the CHARACTER'S wishlist, it's the player's list.  The players in 4e are co-authors with the DM in crafting a story about heroes with a grand destiny.  Would you deny Excalibur to Arthur because it makes him powerful enough to be the once and future king?


If I am creating a character who combines the might of his sword with the sorcerous powers of winter to become one of the mighty heroes who will be forever known to all history as the vanquishers of Tiamat, would it be right to deny me a frost weapon just because I'm trying to "abuse" wintertouched and lasting frost?  No!  The hero's special weapon is an important part of his chronicle!  No weapon but Excalibur for King Arthur!  No sword but Anduril for Aragorn!  No blade but Winter's Breath for Horman, Swordmage of the Icy North!

nice to see ya back ldb.
just a note on the feats, you only need two fro max ac[from armour] you can swap the expertise for second skin, at epic.  
I don't have spreadshets to work out dpr, but I've seen some ragebloods in combat and they really look scary as hell. sure basic attacks don't net much, but the amount of synergy you get from charging+items+feats is pretty nasty. I'm not sure how the free mba when you crit is added to dpr but generally when it occours the target is dead which means another free charge and tph's. pretty much crits usually end meaningfull combats except against solos, which lose no firepower until there at 0.

I'd like to see the actual dpr values for ragebarb's vs others maybe comparing over 4 or 5 rounds? working in a free charge? 
I had worked these out long ago, before the nerfbat struck Reckless and Bloodclaw, and the DPR was far, far below that of a Ranger or Rogue (around the halfway mark, to be exact). The gap will drop somewhat, but the thing is that 10% chance of a free MBA doesn't pack that much sting as far as statistics goes, especiall when the Ranger and the Rogue have an opportunity to do the same (Two-Weapon Opening, and the TWF tree is a great reason for Rogues to dual-wield, even if they pick up no TWF powers).

Don't get me wrong, Barbarian damage is excellent, but Barbarian accuracy pales in comparison to what an isolationist Ranger or a Frost-abusing Rogue can bring to bear, and that makes all the difference with regards to DPR.
It's not really true that the Barbarian's at-will damage  is below striker-average.
Howling Strike on a charge can be optimized in a way no other class can do. I build my rageblood barbarians around this at-will only, with Pressing Strike for controlling and movement, and all other powers for effects the at-wills can't deliver, or out-of-my-turn attacks, because nothing beats howling strike + vanguard + horned helm etc in terms of accuracy AND damage.
I think when people say "wow the barbarian in our group is really impressive" they are referring to some glamorous action like howling strike charge, killing AND critting, then swift charging and rampaging with howling strike plus MBA. This kind of sequence no other class can pull off.
Again, I've never said Barbarian damage was bad. But in all honesty, his way of getting his damage across is not friendly to the DPR equation. Think about these numbers:

A Barbarian with 28 Str, a +6 vanguard maul, the Reckless Charge feat, and Weapon Expertise (hammers) will have +37 to hit while charging. The damage? Won't bother to run it up, but I can tell you it's a lot.

A Ranger with the same Str and the Prime Punisher tree has +39 to hit TWICE against an isolated opponent (with the circumstances pertaining to pull each off being rather equal to achieve, which I believe they are, especially at Epic). His damage per hit lags behind the Barbarian (no kidding), but he has Hunter's Quarry, more accuracy, and swings twice. Ergo, more DPR.

A Rogue concept will likely have 30 Dex and a Frost weapon. That means his hit bonus is in the +40's. His damage is less than the Barbarian's, but his accuracy is so through-the-roof that it doesn't matter.

An Avenger won't have his DPR (sure, you get the 2 rolls, but the damage gap here is far too large to ignore).

The Barbarian can improve by using Frostcheese, but so can the Ranger, and +5 twice is better than once. So while the Barbarian is definitely an offensive powerhouse in the damage department, he does have to hit first, and the statistics do not favor him over other Strikers in that category (the same way that Hide Armor Expertise favors him being the least likely Striker to go down from AC attacks, with his impressive HP pool and higher AC).
Note that avengers just got a paragon feat to add Wis damage to attacks against their oath target 1/round. With the Avenger's accuracy, how does that bring them up?

Also, have you seen the Assassin yet? It can invest in it's striker mechanic over several rounds while fighing other enemies, then blow it all at once, even if he misses.
Holy hells, about freakin' time! Now they don't all have to go Pit Fighter or Student of Caiphon. That should make things significantly more interesting; I'd need numbers to tell you.

Haven't seen the Assassin yet (no PHB 3). Anything interesting there? If by its Striker mechanic you mean the extra damage it's entitled to (a la Curse/Quarry/Sneak Attack), that sounds pretty good.
Holy hells, about freakin' time! Now they don't all have to go Pit Fighter or Student of Caiphon. That should make things significantly more interesting; I'd need numbers to tell you.



I don't see how that would be any less optimal now that they have a damage bonus. IIRC, they stack. It just makes all Avengers better, but it doesn't change the way they should go about their business (minus the one feat slot, of course).


Haven't seen the Assassin yet (no PHB 3). Anything interesting there? If by its Striker mechanic you mean the extra damage it's entitled to (a la Curse/Quarry/Sneak Attack), that sounds pretty good.



PHB3 isn't out yet. It's a DDI exclusive class. The most interesting thing about it is that they found a way to do multi-attacks that isn't broken (some of the new barb powers work the same way).
Yeah, I saw the Whirler powers. A very cool take on multiple weapons hitting the target (and the whole AoE flavor) without threatening the Ranger's niche.

Thanks for the info regarding PHB 3. I have yet to renew my subscription (finals upcoming, deal with it later), but is there anything interesting for any of the classes I have a Handbook on (Barbarians, Fighters, Rangers, and Warlords)?
Yeah, I saw the Whirler powers. A very cool take on multiple weapons hitting the target (and the whole AoE flavor) without threatening the Ranger's niche.

Thanks for the info regarding PHB 3. I have yet to renew my subscription (finals upcoming, deal with it later), but is there anything interesting for any of the classes I have a Handbook on (Barbarians, Fighters, Rangers, and Warlords)?



There have been a handful of articles on nearly every class. The fighter one is useful. I think that the general consensus was that the Warlord one wasn't great. I don't think that I've gotten to the barb or ranger ones. For the sake of completeness, though, you'll prolly end up checking them out yourself anyway.

Are you sure you haven't renewed your DDI? The red icon under your profile denotes that you do have it. You might want to double check.

Also, I hear ya about finals... uggh. That's why I'm even near a computer and able to post right now....


Edit: One more thing in case you missed it - Avengers can't use leather anymore (causes Armor of Faith to not function per Nov errata).
LDB--

Assassins are online content. You've already got access to them if you're an Insider. Very cool class. Great marriage of flavor and mechanics there, though some folks would prefer that their ideal weapon were something more 'stealthy' than a Fullblade.

Re: Avengers. Painful Oath is great, and helps them pack a punch. Hand of Divine Guidance is the sleeper, though. It replaces the Mastery feats for Avengers, and serves as a gateway feat for non- Radiant Servant/Student of Caiphon Avengers to access the Epic tier Radiant feat stack. While some folks are downplaying it, that feat REALLY opens up a lot of PPs because Avengers aren't stuck choosing between two PPs or pumping Str to get the bigger crit range anymore. Avenger/Pit Fighters can now get 19-20 crit range on top of what they already brought to the table without going for Str, Avenger/Ardent Champions look different, etc.

You can now go with just about any PP you want, pick up Hand of Divine Guidance, Painful Oath, and the Epic tier Radiant feats, get a Bloodiron Fullblade, and go nuts with Bond of Retribution as your go-to At-Will. There are still more truly optimal builds (Avenger/Student of Caiphon/Sage of Ages with Rending Urgrosh, using the same feats & etc), but the 'typical' Avenger is now much better off, and the truly optimal ones have only gained about 6 or so DPR.
I had asked it to be canceled ($71.40 for something I can't play year-round? No thanks...), but who knows? I'll have to check it.

And now that I know Avengers basically got Marked Scourge instead of a +Wis PP, that makes it even tastier, because now you can have +(Wis x 3) to damage (whoa).

Edit: Huh. I guess I still have D&DI. I'll download Dragon now, get up to speed on it next week. Weird...
I had asked it to be canceled ($71.40 for something I can't play year-round? No thanks...), but who knows? I'll have to check it.



You have to hound them pretty hard to get them to actually cancel it. Have you checked your credit card bill? It would be odd if you did actually cancel it and the icon was still there.
I had asked it to be canceled ($71.40 for something I can't play year-round? No thanks...), but who knows? I'll have to check it.

And now that I know Avengers basically got Marked Scourge instead of a +Wis PP, that makes it even tastier, because now you can have +(Wis x 3) to damage (whoa).



Luckily, they made it so that Painful Oath only gives you the bonus on the first hit of your turn (the extra damage is Radiant + Necrotic, btw), and only works against your OoE target. They did a surprisingly good job with the Avenger Essentials article, although some of the advice (like skipping Expertise) was off.

BTW... check this out for stat dipping:

Unity (Int) Avenger/Pit Fighter/Radiant One using Frostcheese and Painful Oath. Without needing a lot of imagination, you're looking at:

+Wis
+Wis (Pit Fighter)
+Wis (Painful Oath)
+Int (Starborn)
+3 (Focus)
+5 (Frost)
+6 (enhancement)
+6 (Iron Armbands of Power)
+4 (Gloves of Ice)
+4 (Power of Strength)

assuming 26 Wis and 24 Int (I like Human), you're looking at +59 in statics, not counting your Unity bonus. And, of course, Hand of Divine Guidance means you can now do this and still have a 19-20 crit range. The one snag is that this doesn't work with the Radiant feat stack, because the Frost weapon changes keywords to Cold, which blocks Punishing Radiance fun.
When Barbarians were in beta, we all said they needed a boost to their defense. So, they got a +1/2/3 boost in the final release. I though the only reason they went this route instead of giving them Con/Cha as the AC boosting stat must be because they wanted to keep the barbarian AC low. I knew this was going to come back to bite us in the rear, because it still meant barbarians needed a little bit of dexterity to begin with. It was fairly common to see a barbarian start with 13-14 in dex, especially if they didn't want to be slowed down by chain (or spend the feat for it). And this also made Thaneborns especially MAD because they now were looking at needing Str/Cha for class features, and Con/Dex for survival.

Then out came a barbarian build with Dex as a secondary stat, and a feat that grants Con as a bonus to AC instead of Dex. So the design criteria that they don't want barbarians to have high AC goes completely out the window. We are looking at some of the highest AC characters in the game. This seeming indecisiveness in design is what bothers me the most.

From the beginning, barbarian agility (much like Sorcerer builds) should have been tied to the build. If Thaneborns got Cha bonus to AC instead of Dex, Ragebloods and Thunderborn got Con bonus to AC instead of Dex, every build would be on equal footing in that arena, and we wouldn't be dealing with the +1/2/3 untyped scaling boost to AC. If that design for some reason didn't work out, it would have been much easier to introduce the scaling AC boost as a feat in PP, rather than the other way around.

I would have preferred to see Hide Armor Expertise in a completely different form, sort of an early replacement for Hide Armor Specialization: You gain +1 feat bonus to AC while wearing Hide Armor. At 11th level, this bonus also applies to your Reflex. At 21st level this bonus also applies to your Will. I think this version would have made many more characters happy, while at the same time not giving anyone a crazy bonus to AC that the Con replacement adds (for a first level goliath rageblood, swapping chain for HAE currently is like swapping a +2 AC/-1 Reflex/-1 Speed feat for a +4 AC feat). I think a plain old +1 AC for 1 feat would have been much more in line with everything else. And it would make quite a few Wardens and Druids happy as well.
I think it's useful to realize that the wishlist isn't the CHARACTER'S wishlist, it's the player's list.  The players in 4e are co-authors with the DM in crafting a story about heroes with a grand destiny.  Would you deny Excalibur to Arthur because it makes him powerful enough to be the once and future king?

If I am creating a character who combines the might of his sword with the sorcerous powers of winter to become one of the mighty heroes who will be forever known to all history as the vanquishers of Tiamat, would it be right to deny me a frost weapon just because I'm trying to "abuse" wintertouched and lasting frost?  No!  The hero's special weapon is an important part of his chronicle!  No weapon but Excalibur for King Arthur!  No sword but Anduril for Aragorn!  No blade but Winter's Breath for Horman, Swordmage of the Icy North!



     A million times this.
(I employ zie/zie/zir as a gender-neutral counterpart to he/him/his. Just a heads-up.) Essentials definitely isn't for me as a player, and I feel that its design and implementation bear serious flaws which fill me with concern for the future of D&D, but I've come to the conclusion that it isn't going to destroy the game that I want to play. Indeed, I think that I could probably run a game for players using Essentials characters without it being much of a problem at all. Time will tell, I suppose.
Again, I've never said Barbarian damage was bad. But in all honesty, his way of getting his damage across is not friendly to the DPR equation. Think about these numbers:

A Barbarian with 28 Str, a +6 vanguard maul, the Reckless Charge feat, and Weapon Expertise (hammers) will have +37 to hit while charging. The damage? Won't bother to run it up, but I can tell you it's a lot.

A Ranger with the same Str and the Prime Punisher tree has +39 to hit TWICE against an isolated opponent (with the circumstances pertaining to pull each off being rather equal to achieve, which I believe they are, especially at Epic). His damage per hit lags behind the Barbarian (no kidding), but he has Hunter's Quarry, more accuracy, and swings twice. Ergo, more DPR.

A Rogue concept will likely have 30 Dex and a Frost weapon. That means his hit bonus is in the +40's. His damage is less than the Barbarian's, but his accuracy is so through-the-roof that it doesn't matter.

An Avenger won't have his DPR (sure, you get the 2 rolls, but the damage gap here is far too large to ignore).

The Barbarian can improve by using Frostcheese, but so can the Ranger, and +5 twice is better than once. So while the Barbarian is definitely an offensive powerhouse in the damage department, he does have to hit first, and the statistics do not favor him over other Strikers in that category (the same way that Hide Armor Expertise favors him being the least likely Striker to go down from AC attacks, with his impressive HP pool and higher AC).



you say "The Barbarian can improve by using Frostcheese, but so can the Ranger"... but the rogue can't, because he's already using it... this closes the gap (by your numbers the rogue has a 3 point advantage before the barb using frostcheese, so the gap will close, but not be entirely eliminated. You acknowledge the barb does more damage, and once he uses frostcheese to close the gap, that whole "his accuracy is so through the roof that it doesn't matter" starts to actually matter. Add in the rogue's AC will be noticably inferior unless he spends a great deal of feats on defense (at which point it becomes marginally inferior, assuming the barb doesn't also invest equally in defense), the rogue's HP's, # of surges and surge value and THP accumulation, are all WAY bellow the barbarians potential. you now have a rogue with marginally more accuracy, but less damage, defenses and durrability.

Now, as to the ranger, I don't hang around the Op boards enough to be familiar with their DPR numbers, or the builds that attain those numbers, so I ca't be certain how they compare in regards to DPR, defenses, durrability and manuverability. I suspect the ranger's more consistent and accurate damge results in a more consistent DPR, but the barbarian has a higher potential (which will show against easy to hit opponents or good luck days), and will fluctuate a lot. I suspect the two will have similar AC's, though the barbarian will likely hedge out the ranger due to having less Mad, particularly at high levels. I suspect the rangers free toughness will reduce the HP and surge value gap, but only somewhat (at level 30 it accounts for less then half the difference of that gained from leveling and doesn't even account for any con difference), and the barbs surges will remain much higher, as will their inherant ability to generate THP's. I really can't say on manuverability. All in all, I have no idea how the ranger really compares, but it looks to me they still fall well behind the barbarian in durability and marginally behind everywhere else but DPR, and I have to wonder if the DPR advantage is really significant enough to compensate, as well as the impact other classes have on the comparison (IE bonus MBA's from warlord/shaman)
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Don't we already have like three threads about this?

e.g.:
   community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758... 
you say "The Barbarian can improve by using Frostcheese, but so can the Ranger"... but the rogue can't, because he's already using it... this closes the gap (by your numbers the rogue has a 3 point advantage before the barb using frostcheese, so the gap will close, but not be entirely eliminated. You acknowledge the barb does more damage, and once he uses frostcheese to close the gap, that whole "his accuracy is so through the roof that it doesn't matter" starts to actually matter. Add in the rogue's AC will be noticably inferior unless he spends a great deal of feats on defense (at which point it becomes marginally inferior, assuming the barb doesn't also invest equally in defense), the rogue's HP's, # of surges and surge value and THP accumulation, are all WAY bellow the barbarians potential. you now have a rogue with marginally more accuracy, but less damage, defenses and durrability.

Now, as to the ranger, I don't hang around the Op boards enough to be familiar with their DPR numbers, or the builds that attain those numbers, so I ca't be certain how they compare in regards to DPR, defenses, durrability and manuverability. I suspect the ranger's more consistent and accurate damge results in a more consistent DPR, but the barbarian has a higher potential (which will show against easy to hit opponents or good luck days), and will fluctuate a lot. I suspect the two will have similar AC's, though the barbarian will likely hedge out the ranger due to having less Mad, particularly at high levels. I suspect the rangers free toughness will reduce the HP and surge value gap, but only somewhat (at level 30 it accounts for less then half the difference of that gained from leveling and doesn't even account for any con difference), and the barbs surges will remain much higher, as will their inherant ability to generate THP's. I really can't say on manuverability. All in all, I have no idea how the ranger really compares, but it looks to me they still fall well behind the barbarian in durability and marginally behind everywhere else but DPR, and I have to wonder if the DPR advantage is really significant enough to compensate, as well as the impact other classes have on the comparison (IE bonus MBA's from warlord/shaman)



To be honest, man, I'm not the biggest fan of Frostcheese for Weapon-based characters. Not being able to punch through elemental defenses is a looming issue for me. The only character where I am a faithful proponent for it is for the Rogue, and it's because he doesn't do jack without it. I much prefer to equip a Barbarian for charge optimization and a Ranger for 1-on-1 fighting.

The edge belongs to the Ranger in manueverability; his movement powers are more impressive IMHO, and they hit play earlier. The durability belongs to the Barb, no question: more HP, more surges, and Utility powers geared toward staying upright. The Ranger has the edge in defenses; though he has less AC, he has a very solid edge in Reflex and Will, and the AC edge for the Barbarian isn't much, even with the investment he puts in.

Also, now that Follow-Up Blow has finally been clarified and both Hurricane of Blades and Storm of Blades have been nerfed, no one stands up to the Ranger in raw explosions of damage. My "kill anything in one turn" Ranger/Pit Fighter/Demigod still stands, and he's Frostcheese-free (all the better, because Epic Solos tend to have that pesky variable resistance).

@Outshined: Trouble is, Weapon Mastery is an integral part of what you do as a Melee character, especially a Barbarian who has the Rampage class feature hinging on it. That means you gravitate to weapons who can take advantage of your sky-high Con, which means Axes and Hammers, which in turn means +2 proficiency. Rangers have the Prime Punisher/Prime Shot feat tree to increase their accuracy and damage vs. isolated opponents (not to mention the whole multiple attacks business), Rogues have Rogue Weapon Talent, easy access to Combat Advantage and hit NAD's with frightening regularity, and Avengers are similar to Rangers in that they roll everything at least twice. Not only that, but most of these guys run +3 proficiency weapons, making the gap even bigger. The Barbarian may have those cool Encounter powers, but they're useless if they don't hit.


If accuracy is *that* important, wouldn't it make sense to build around it than to try and make up for it?

I honestly don't see the incentive to strictly focus on constitution. It is possible for a barbarian to have Heavy Blade Mastery at epic and still have a +5 or +6 constitution modifier at level 21. If those +1 or +2 accuracy points are so important, wouldn't using a +3 proficiency heavy blade and taking the small hit (+1) to your constitution make more sense than settling for hammers and axes?

A half-orc would have Str 24/Con 22/Dex 17 by level 21. Any Str/Con race (minotaur, warforged, goliath) could have the exact same numbers as well by starting with 18/16/15 scores.

A Barbarian with 28 Str, a +6 vanguard maul, the Reckless Charge feat, and Weapon Expertise (hammers) will have +37 to hit while charging. The damage? Won't bother to run it up, but I can tell you it's a lot.


Taking the barbarian I propose to level 30 and assuming Demigod, we get scores of 28/26/17. The barbarian's to-hit is +36 (so +38 while charging with Reckless Charge).

His AC with Hide Armor Expertise and Second Skin is 49.

A Ranger with the same Str and the Prime Punisher tree has +39 to hit TWICE against an isolated opponent (with the circumstances pertaining to pull each off being rather equal to achieve, which I believe they are, especially at Epic). His damage per hit lags behind the Barbarian (no kidding), but he has Hunter's Quarry, more accuracy, and swings twice. Ergo, more DPR.


I'm getting +38 for the Ranger's to-hit (he's not charging with Reckless Charge like the barbarian). It should be noted that the barbarian and the ranger both have the same attack bonus (+36) if the former is not charging and the latter is not benefiting from Prime Punisher.

It seems to me that the multi-attacks is simply what makes the ranger more accurate, nothing else.

With a probable focus on wisdom as a secondary stat, the ranger likely doesn't have anywhere near a 49 AC though.
A Rogue concept will likely have 30 Dex and a Frost weapon. That means his hit bonus is in the +40's. His damage is less than the Barbarian's, but his accuracy is so through-the-roof that it doesn't matter.


I seriously question the assumption that rogues will start out with a 20 dexterity score. With a more reasonable 28 dexterity, and Weapon Talent, we get a to-hit of +39, not "in the +40's". Of course, targetting non-AC defenses will increase this, but against AC the difference is +1 when the barbarian is charging and the ranger is isolating his enemy.

And of course, I doubt the rogue's AC is anywhere near 49 as well.

The thing about assuming CA for the rogue in your calculations is that you can assume the same for the others. So while the rogue has a +39 to attack, the barbarian can have a +38 with CA (+40 while charging with Reckless Charge). But with a fullblade, he's dealing d12's, and enjoying High Critical.

Between the ranger and the barbarian, the barbarian has an easier time achieving Combat Advantage because the isolating ranger doesn't want to flank (same attack bonus minus the Called Shot damage).

Anyways... I simply don't agree that a barbarian *must* use a hammer or axe, and start out with an 18 constitution score. The heavy blade is simply more accurate and, unlike fighter powers, barbarian riders don't care what weapon you're using to add +con to damage. Further, you can use HBO, which makes your OAs a bigger concern for your enemies, boosting your ability to defend.
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