Role play ... deconstructing the combat roles on the battlefield

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ROLE PLAY ... DECONSTRUCTING THE COMBAT ROLES ON THE BATTLEFIELD

In this thread, I explore a new way to look at class roles.

[sblock Intro]
So far, the class roles prove vague, overlapping, and messy - Controller, Defender, Leader, and Striker. These class roles draw whimsical inspiration from the four baseline classes - Wizard, Fighter, Cleric, and Rogue - but beyond this they lack definitions that are both clear and true. For example, the Striker is often said to 'deal high damage to a single target'. Yet the Sorcerer despite being called a Striker is known for multi-target damage. The Monk isnt even especially known for damage. While easy to understand this definition for Striker, it sometimes fails to be true.

Instead of trying to reduce all class behaviors on the battlefield into one of four roles, this thread looks beyond the quartet to what is actually happening on the battlefield. In fact, there are many roles, and many permutations of these roles.

To come up with names for these many roles, I reuse names from the monster roles (which convey far more meaning) and from the gamer jargon (tho I tried to keep it medievalesque) as well as the class roles. For certain names that bundled several roles together, I tried to keep the most salient meaning, and split the rest off into separate roles.

While the following assemblage of roles may need finetuning, it usefully describes what characters do on a D&D battlefield. [/sblock]



   COMBAT ROLES

  Attack Roles ...

   Range Roles
   • Infantry (melee attacks, including close attacks)
   • Artillery (ranged attacks, including area attacks)
   Target Roles
   • Striker (higher damage to a single target, including multiple attacks on a single target)
   • Blaster (lower damage to multiple targets, including close or area bursts)

  Utility Roles ...
   Heavy Roles (survivability)
   • Soldier (high defenses)
   • Brute (high hit points)
   Light Roles (tactics)
   • Skirmisher (mobility)
   • Lurker (stealth)


   META-COMBAT ROLES

   Leader Roles
(reinforce allies)
   • Weaponmaster (buff Attack roles - improve attack accuracy, number of targets, amount of damage, range, reach, opportunity attacks)
   • Healer (fortify Heavy roles - Soldier and Brute - grant hit points, remove conditions, heighten defenses)
   • Tactician (mobilize Light roles - Skirmisher and Lurker - grant tactics, mobility, stealth, penetrate terrain)
   Controller Roles (undermine enemies)
   • Defender (debuff Attack roles - negate attacks, reduce accuracy, reduce damage dealt)
   • Execrator (enervate Heavy roles - inflict defense penalties, conditions, ongoing damage)
   • Engineer (paralyze Light roles - deny mobility, expose stealth, create terrain)



It is possible to describe the combat role of a character narrowly, mentioning numerous roles to pinpoint exactly what the character does in combat. Most of the time, it is enough to describe the combat role broadly, mentioning only one to three of the most prominent areas of specialization.

A single class can specialize in one or more of numerous roles. The roles are easy to mix and match, but compare some classic examples:
   Wizard (Artillery Controller)
   Fighter (Infantry Soldier Brute Defender)
   Cleric (Soldier Healer)
   Rogue (Infantry Striker Lurker)
Of course, these classes allow alternative options for class builds that can fill other roles.


[sblock Comments on the combat roles]
A binary model represents well the defacto combat roles. The deepest division is between the combat roles and the meta-combat roles. Unsurprisingly, the combat roles turn out to resonate the attack powers and utility powers that characters actually use in combat, along with the traits and features that resemble the powers. The meta-combat roles function only indirectly, by manipulating the attacks and utilities of other characters. For example, a meta-combatant could even avoid attacking an enemy and instead enhance the attack that an ally delivers to that enemy.

The combat roles divide into attack roles and utility roles. Here, the term 'attack' has two senses. The broader sense corresponds roughly to 'attack powers' versus 'utility powers'. The narrower sense corresponds more specifically to 'attack types', namely melee, close, ranged, and area. 

The attack roles divide into range roles and target roles.
• One ranged role, the infantry role attacks nearby enemies, thus corresponds to melee attacks and close attacks.
• The other ranged role, the artillery role attacks distant enemies, corresponding to ranged attacks and area attacks. To favor either nearby or distant combat dramatically affects the behavior on the battlefield. The target roles describe how one allocates the attacks.
• One target role, the striker role concentrates higher damage to single target, and by nature employs search and destroy.
• The other target role, the blaster role distributes less-high damage across multiple enemies simultaneously, and by nature sweeps minions and continuously threatens swaths of the battlefields. Often the blaster damage can be ally-safe multi-target or ally-unsafe bursts for higher damage. 

Consider the combinations. For example, the artillery-striker role is a kind of sniper who picks off the distant enemies one by one. Oppositely, the infantry-blaster role is a kind of whirlwind who hits everyone within reach. Consider a brawler who dabbles in both striker single-target stabs and blaster multi-target cleaves. Such a brawler would probably just refer to 'infantry' as the role without specifying both striker and blaster.

Note the attack roles correspond closely to the attack types:

• Melee (Infantry Striker)
• Close (Infantry Blaster)
• Ranged (Artillery Striker)
• Area (Artillery Blaster)

The types of attack that a character specializes in shape the behavior on battlefields.



Alongside the attack roles, the other division of combat roles is the utility roles. These correspond closely to utility powers. Utility roles dont actually attack but counter attacks by enemies and the set up attacks against enemies. Among the utilities, two heavy roles simply outlast their enemies, the soldier role and the brute role.
• The soldier role outlasts enemies by invulnerability to their attacks. The soldier may achieve this invulnerability by exhibiting high defenses, typically a high AC via either Reflex or heavy armor, but also high Fortitude and Will defenses to deflect attacks. The soldier may possess resistances to damage types and immunities to damage types, effect types, and conditions, may achieve insubstantiality to partially negate damage, may gain saving throw bonuses to reduce the length of ongoing damage, effects, and conditions, may boost death saving throws to survive dying, and so on.
• The brute role too outlasts enemies but by sheer quantity of hit points, simply taking the punishment and pushing on. The brute may achieve hit points by high base hit points, a large quantity and an easy access to surges, a high ability bonus to hit points and surges, temporary hit points, regeneration, vampirism, and so on.

Alternatively among the utilities, two light roles evade enemy attackers, the skirmisher role and the lurker role.
• The skirmisher role specializes in mobility to dance in and out of enemy positions, including high speed, charges, flying, teleporting, shifting, phasing, plane walking, using the athletics skill to jump and climb, the acrobatics skill to do stunts, and so on.
• The lurker role uses stealth to avoid detection, including the stealth skill, invisibility, the bluff skill, disguise, mimicry, and so on.

Regarding the utility roles, the means of escaping attacks by enemies are also the means of setting up attacks against the enemy. The soldier and brute wade into battle, into the tactical positions. The skirmisher and lurker bypass body guards to reach special targets.  The attack roles and the utility roles, together, constitute the combat roles.
[/sblock]

[sblock Comments on the meta-combat roles]
Meta-combat roles dont perform combat roles directly but instead influence the ability of others to perform them. The meta-combat roles split into leader roles that help the ability of allies to perform the combat roles and into controller roles that harm the ability of the enemies to perform combat roles.

The leader roles include the weaponmaster role, the healer role, and the tactician role. Each helps allies in certain ways. In essence, the weaponmaster role transforms allies into the attack rolls: infantry and artillery, as well as striker and blaster.
• The weaponmaster may be like an athletics coach who trains allies to wield their weapons of choice well, like a seargeant who coordinates teams attacks, like a seer who imbues allies with luck, like an enchanter who enhances assaults with eldritch force, and so on. For infantry and artillery, the weaponmaster may buff the accuracy of the ally attacks generally, while granting melee and ranged reach, respectively. For the striker and blaster, the weaponmaster may increase the number of attacks generally, while buffing the amount of damage and the number of targets, respectively. 
• The healer role transforms allies into the heavy roles: soldiers and brutes. For the soldier with high defenses, the healer may enhance AC and other defenses, imbue resistances to damage types, immunities, saving throw bonuses, may remove impairing status conditions, and so on. For the brute with high hit points, the healer may heal hit points of damage, add temporary hit points, and so on. Where the healer tends to the wellbeing of each ally, the weaponmaster tends to the combat effectiveness of each ally. 
• Differently, the tactician role transforms allies into the utility roles: skirmisher and lurker. For the skirmisher role with mobility, the tactician may grant speed, shifts, friendly slides, even the ability to fly, teleport, plane walk, and so on. More methodically, the tactician may grant mobility as a sapper, by bridging difficult terrain, tunneling blocking terrain, suppressing hindering terrain, using the thievery skill to pick locks and disable traps, and so on. For the lurker role with stealth, the tactician may provide camouflage, invisibility, or other means to escape detection. Thus the tactician 'marshals' the combat tactics on the battlefield, enabling light infantry and special forces.
By empowering allies, all of these leader roles unite and inform the group as a whole.

At the other side of the meta-combat roles, the controller roles are a mirror image of the leader roles. The controller roles are the defender role, the execrator role, and the engineer role. Where the weaponmaster buffs and coordinates ally attacks, the defender debuffs and distracts enemy attacks. Where the healer heals and restores allies, the execrator harms and impairs enemies. Where the tactician mobilizes and conceals allied forces, the engineer blocks and exposes enemy forces.
• The defender role debuffs the enemy attack roles, disrupting the reach and accuracy of their attacks, reducing their damage against allies, near and far, and so on.
• By contrast, the execrator role enervates the enemy heavy roles. Against enemy soldiers, the execrator may enervate their defenses making them easier for allies to hit them, may induce vulnerabilities to damage types, penetrate resistances, wreck immunities, ruin saving throws, and inflict impairing status conditions: Dazed/Stunned, Slowed/Immobilized/Restrained, Helpless/Unconscious/Dying, Dominated, Weakened, and Blind-Deaf. Against enemy brutes, the execrator may bleed away their hit points with ongoing damage making them easier for allies to dispatch.
• Finally, the engineer may arrest the mobility of enemy skirmishers by various means, from magically conjuring a wall to seizing control of a nearby area making it difficult to pass. The engineer may create various kinds of terrain to barricade the enemies: obscuring, hindering, difficult, and blocking. And so on.
All these controller roles undermine the enemy.

In sum, the combat roles are many, and already distinct from the meta-combat roles. The combat roles partition into attack roles and utility roles. The attack roles include range (infantry and artillery) and target (striker and blaster) roles. The utility roles include heavy (soldier and brute) and light (skirmisher and lurker) roles. The meta-combat roles comprise the leader roles and controller roles. The leader roles (healer, buffer, and tactician) help allies perform the combat roles. The controller roles (execrator, debuffer, and engineer) prevent enemies from performing the combat roles. A single character may specialize in one or more of these roles.
[/sblock]

By defining precisely what each combat role is, Character Optimization can begin the task of evaluating how well each class can fulfill each role.



HANDY REFERENCES
[sblock Class-Race Abilities Synergy Table]

The primary and secondary abilities appear in the left column. Then the races that boost both of these abilities. Then the class builds that use them. The columns list the class builds by power source.


























































































































































































































































































ABILITIES



RACE



ARCANE



PSIONIC



MARTIAL



PRIMAL



DIVINE



SHADOW



ELEMENTAL



Str-Con



• Dwarf
• Goliath
• Minotaur
• Warforged



 



 



Fighter
(Knight; Battlerager; ‘Hammer’; Great Weapon)



Barbarian
(Rageblood; Thunderborn)

Warden
(Earth ‘Earthstrength’; Storm ‘Stormheart’)



Paladin
(‘Strength’ ‘Straladin’)

Runepriest
(Wrathful)



 



 



Str-Dex



• Half Orc



 



 



Fighter
(Brawler; ‘Heavyblade’; Slayer; Tempest)

Ranger
(Beastmaster; Marauder; Two-Blade)



Barbarian
(Rageblood; Whirling)



 



 



 



Str-Int



• Genasi



 



 



Warlord
(Resourceful; Skirmisher; Tactical, ‘Taclord’)



 



 



 



 



Str-Wis



• Minotaur
• Shifter (Longtooth)



 



 



Fighter
(Guardian, ‘Combat Superiority’; ‘Polearm’)

Warlord
(Insightful)



Warden
(Wild, ‘Wildblood’; Life, ‘Lifespirit’)



Cleric
(Battle)

Paladin
(Ardent, ‘Strength’, ‘Straladin’)

Runepriest
(Defiant)



 



 



Str-Cha



• Dragonborn



 



 



Warlord
(Bravura; Inspiring)



Barbarian
(Thaneborn)



Paladin
(Avenging, ‘Balanced’, ‘Baladin’)



 



 



Con-Str



• Dwarf
• Goliath
• Minotaur
• Warforged



 



 



 



 



 



 



 



Con-Dex



• Gnoll
• Halfling
• Revenant



 



Battlemind
(Harrier)



 



 



 



 



 



Con-Int



 



Warlock
(‘Gish’; Scourge, ‘Infernal’, ‘Hellock’; ‘Vestige’; ‘Star’, ‘Starlock’)



 



 



 



 



 



 



Con-Wis



• Dwarf
• Wilden



 



Battlemind
(Resilient, ‘Battle Resilience’)



 



 



 



 



 



Con-Cha



• Half Elf



Warlock
(‘Star’, ‘Starlock’)



Battlemind
(Quick, ‘Speed of Thought’)



 



 



 



 



 



Dex-Str



• Half Orc



 



Monk
(Stonefist)



Ranger
(Marauder)

Rogue
(Brawny, ‘Brutal Scoundrel’)



 



 



 



 



Dex-Con



• Gnoll
• Halfling
• Revenant



 



Monk
(Iron Soul)



Ranger
(Hunter)



 



 



Assassin
(Bleak Disciple)



 



Dex-Int



• Eladrin
• Elf
• Shadarkai



 



 



Rogue
(Shadowy, ‘Cunning Sneak’; ‘Sharpshooter’)



 



 



 



 



Dex-Wis



• Elf
• Githzerai
• Shifter (Razorclaw)
• Wilden



 



Monk
(Centered Breath)



Ranger
(Archer)

Rogue
(Shadowy, ‘Cunning Sneak’; ‘Sharpshooter’)



 



 



 



 



Dex-Cha



• Changeling
• Drow
• Halfling



 



 



Rogue
(Trickster, ‘Artful Dodger’; Aerialist; Cutthroat, ‘Ruthless Ruffian’)



 



 



Assassin
(Night Stalker)



 



Int-Str



• Genasi



Swordmage
(Assault)

Wizard
(‘Elemental Empowerment’)



 



 



 



 



 



 



Int-Con



 



Artificer
(Battlesmith; Summoner; ‘Versatile’)

Swordmage
(Ensnaring, ‘Ensnarement’; Shielding)

Wizard
(‘Gish’; Evocation Mage; ‘Staff’, ‘Staff of Defense’; Summoner, ‘Tome’, ‘Tome of Binding’)



 



 



 



 



 



 



Int-Dex



• Eladrin
• Elf
• Shadarkai



Wizard
(War, ‘Wand’, ‘Wand of Accuracy’)



 



 



 



 



 



 



Int-Wis



• Deva
• Githzerai
• Shardmind



Artificer
(‘Crossbow’;
Summoner; Tinkerer; ‘Polearm’; Warrior Forge)

Wizard
(Illusion Mage; Control, ‘Orb’, ‘Orb of Imposition’, ‘Orbizard’)

Swordmage
(‘Wandering Swordmage’)



Psion
(Telekinetic)



 



 



 



 



 



Int-Cha



• Changeling
• Eladrin
• Gnome
• Shardmind
• Tiefling



Wizard
(Enchanter Mage; Enchanter; Illusionist, ‘Orb of Deception’)



Psion
(Shaper; Telepathic, ‘Telepath’)



 



 



 



 



 



Wis-Str



• Minotaur
• Shifter (Longtooth)



 



 



 



Seeker
(Protecting, ‘Spiritbond’, ‘Spirits Rebuke’)



 



 



 



Wis-Con



• Dwarf
• Wilden



 



 



 



Druid
(Guardian; Swarm)

Shaman (Bear; World Speaker)



Invoker
(Malediction; Wrathful)



 



 



Wis-Dex



• Elf
• Githzerai
• Shifter (Razorclaw)
• Wilden



 



 



 



Druid
(Predatory)

Seeker
(Vengeful, ‘Bloodbond’, ‘Encaging Spirits’)



Avenger
(Pursuing, ‘Pursuit’)

Invoker
(Malediction)



 



 



Wis-Int



• Deva
• Githzerai
• Shardmind



 



 



 



Shaman
(Eagle?; Panther)



Avenger
(Commanding, ‘Unity’; Isolating, ‘Retribution’)

Invoker (Malediction; Preserving)



 



 



Wis-Cha



• Kalashtar



 



 



 



 



Cleric
(Devoted, ‘Laser’; Shielding, ‘Pacifist’, ‘Healiac’)



 



 



Cha-Str



• Dragonborn



Sorcerer
(Cosmic; Dragon)



 



 



 



Paladin
(‘Balanced’, ‘Baladin’)



 



 



Cha-Con



• Half Elf



Bard
(Valorous, ‘Valor’)

Warlock
(‘Star’, ‘Starlock’)



Ardent
(Euphoric, ‘Elation’; Impetuous, ‘Impulsiveness’)



 



 



 



 



 



Cha-Dex



• Changeling
• Drow
• Halfling



Sorcerer
(Storm; Chaos, ‘Wild’)



Ardent
(Impetuous, ‘Impulsiveness’)



 



 



 



 



 



Cha-Int



• Changeling
• Eladrin
• Gnome
• Shardmind
• Tiefling



Bard
(Cunning)

Warlock
(Deceptive, ‘Fey’, ‘Feylock’; ‘Dark’, ‘Darklock’; ‘Star’, ‘Starlock’)



 



 



 



 



 



 



Cha-Wis



• Kalashtar



Bard
(Prescient, ‘Prescience’)



Ardent
(Enlightened, ‘Clarity’)



 



 



Paladin
(Protecting; Virtuous; ‘Charisma’, ‘Chaladin’)



 



 



[/sblock]

Anyone up for a game of Dungeons and Derrida?

 But seriously, I think you're on to something. We on the char op board ought to be assessing the roles of characters as they are actually played as well as how the fluff describes them. Ultimately the roles of "Leader," "Striker," "Defender," and "Controller" are descriptors that have no necessary connection to the characters they describe.

We need a better vocabulary.

Let me think on this. . . I'll post more later. . .

VK 

Interesting analysis, but why do you feel it is necessary?  So the roles are vague and overlapping, ok, but I don’t see that as anything that needs to be addressed.


 D&D isn’t Advanced Squad Leader or Team Fortress and PCs aren’t wedged into holes based on their roles.  D&D characters can be fluid, adaptable creations that mature into different duties.  My gaming table tends to enjoy gaming more when the characters, and their duties, are dynamic.


 I just don’t see the point in further codifying the roles.


Addendum:


 To demonstrate my apprehension about further codifying roles, take a look at the rogue.  You’ve got rogues listed as infantry, or melee, combatants.  Rogues can be fine melee characters, but they can also be fine ranged combatants, and they can be both in the same character.  Similarly, rogues can be just as mobile as they are stealthy.  Pigeonholing rogues as infantry lurkers ignores their potential to be mobile ranged characters, to say nothing of their ability to force movement and create negative conditions on enemies whereas calling rogues infantry/artillery/lurkers/skirmishers/controllers seems sort of unnecessarily broad and defeats the purpose of better classifying the class’s role.


I have little doubt that as you look at more classes more examples of where characters don’t fit nicely into a few classifications.


 The rogue class illustrates exactly why the roles are vague: to allow characters and players to concentrate, expand, or spill over their default battlefield duties.  The nebulous nature of roles and the variations in how roles are implemented on the class and build levels allows characters to perform many diverse actions very competently.  In my opinion, the vague nature of roles and their implementation is a benefit, not a flaw, of the system.


 What do you see as the purpose of this thread?  It is to help people understand combat tactics, help them build characters to fulfill specific battlefield duties, discuss the abstract meanings of roles, inform further official and house rules, or something else?  You’ve provided some interesting information about battlefield duties, but apart from being another angle to look at roles, I don’t see the payoff. 

Rule one isn’t “The DM is always right.” Rule one is: Everyone should be having fun at the table. Plans for 5e: Kill the d20, and replace it with a bell curve for task resolution.
Part of the problem is that the official roles are inadequately defined in the PHB, and most people bring a limited understanding of them to their discussions here.  When I posted on this topic before, this is what I had to say about the roles:
Show
Controllers directly counter enemy strategies and disrupt enemy tactics.

Controllers use area of effect attacks to punish enemy formations. They use forced movement to disrupt those formations, and to position enemies in exposed and vulnerable positions. Controllers have access to a variety of status effects which temporarily hinder or disable key enemy units. Finally, Controllers use walls and zones to reshape the battlefield, forcing the enemy to contend with different battlefield conditions than planned for.

Defenders disrupt focus fire and prevent enemies from engaging their preferred targets.

Defenders use their mark to encourage enemies to stop attacking whichever party member they are attempting to focus on, and they have abilities that punish enemies who attempt to ignore the mark. Defenders have abilities that redirect or outright prevent attacks. They have abilities that help ranged and skirmishing characters avoid melee, and they have abilities that help prevent ranged and skirmishing enemies from escaping melee.

Leaders enable party tactics and enhance party efficiency.

Leaders boost the offensive and defensive capabilities of the party. They enhance the mobility of a party, helping party members get into optimal positions. They provide increased access to healing resources, enhance those resources, and help the party avoid and negate negative status effects, allowing the party to continue operating at full strength.

Strikers engage and neutralize priority targets as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Strikers have access to increased mobility and/or ranged attacks, allowing them to penetrate or bypass enemy defenses and attack their preferred targets. They have debuffs to hinder those targets and high damage output to kill those targets quickly. They also have defensive abilities that help them disengage and move to another target when necessary.
I think the official roles can be valuable, as long as they're used properly.  Creating boxes for things can be a nice aid to analysis, but we always have to be careful that we don't get too tied up in the boxes.

I think Haldrik's proposal is a little overspecific, because most classes can easily be built to fall across a range of categories.  Wizards, for example, can be Infantry, Artillery, Strikers, Blasters, Soldiers, Skirmishers, Lurkers, Controllers, Defenders, and/or Engineers without too much stretching.  I'm not sure how much this kind of breakdown helps me better understand the Wizard.

t~

edit: I like the added example of the Rogue there :-)
I think the existing roles (defender, striker, leader and controller) are effective for what they need to be. Rather than being a statement of what the party needs or what the class does, they are a general statement of the mentality one can use while playing the character for success along the baseline build. For example, a typical ranger should not be charging forth to occupy as many brutes as possible, the typical fighter should not be primarily focused on making Heal checks to give allies saving throws, the typical cleric shouldn't ignore his allies trying to put huge damage numbers on a target, etc...

Once a player becomes used to the system and progresses to a certain level of mastery, he shouldn't need to ask question about "what role is my fighter". Because he can disregard the general role and combine a build with a strategy for how he is going to help his party succeed that may or may not fall within the standard role system. Maybe his fighter will be a polearm or shield build with lots of control, or maybe it will be an executioner axe toting faux-striker.  Maybe his cleric uses Righteous Rage of Tempus regularly to drop foes quickly. An experienced builder thinks more about his particular character and party than general role concepts.

Edit: Succinct moral of the story - when LDB makes a fighter, that fighter's role is whatever LDB decides it is.
I've mentioned this before, but I find monster roles more useful than PC ones.  Each seems like each monster role does a good job of encapsulating a given play style.  In contrast, with the PC roles it seems like they to tried artificially par things down to 4 roles.

Looking over a lot of the character discussions, I'd say there tend to be 3 major areas of expertise:
  • Damage is about taking enemies out as quickly as possible.  Damage roles tend toward more offense than defense and favor quick combats.

  • Support is about making the team as a whole function better.  Support roles can favor either offense of defense.

  • Control is about manipulating the terms of a fight so they lay in the party's favor.  Control roles tend to favor defense over offense as it's easier to lose control in faster fights if the enemy gets lucky.


From there, roles act as both a play style guide and a set of specializations.  For monster roles, this breaks down pretty easily.
  • Artillery is primarily a damage role, though it may dabble in support with area attacks (control by discouraging grouping) and resistance to ranged attacks.

  • Brutes are a mainly a damage role, though they can provide a little passive control by acting as hit magnets (high damage and low defenses encourage attacks while high hp help them survive them).

  • Controllers are control specialists, as the name implies.

  • Leader adds support abilities to another monster role.

  • Lurkers alternate between offensive/damage and defensive/control roles as needed.

  • Skirmishers are a damage role that specializes in mobility.  Their mobility often contributes to their damage role by making focused fire easier.

  • Soldiers are largely a control role as they focus on limiting enemy movement, controlling enemy targetting, and mitigating enemy attacks.


From there, the PC roles seem a bit more cobbled together.
  • Controller Classes tend to mix the Artillery and Controller monster roles.

  • Defender Classes closely parrallel the Soldier role, though Brutes may also be able to fit with a few tweaks.

  • Leader Classes tend towards the same template as leader monsters, with support abilities added to a secondary role.  Artillery, Controller, and Soldier seem the most common secondary roles.  Admittedly, PC leaders do tend to favor their support side more than monster leaders do.

  • Striker Classes seem to center around the Skirmisher role, though Artillery, Brutes, and Lurkers can also be folded into this group.  In fact, the number of roles that can be folded into it with minimal tweaks may be why striker classes are so numerous.


I'd honestly favor seeing PC specialities broken up more like this.  Rather than saying, "we need a defender", I think "we need more defense and control" would be better.  Heck, I already see something like that for strikers ("need more damage") and controllers ("need more control").
Interested in a rambling collection of game ideas? Check out Schemes of the Dancing Chimera.
@BvBPL and Tiornys: Note that Haldrik refers to a "classic example". The classic rogue is an infantry/striker/lurker as we think about it. But the 4th edition rogue can also be built to be artillery/striker/skirmisher as BvBPL mentions.

In this sense I think I agree with the OP. However, I'm not sure "when" these roles are assigned.

You could look at a class before character creation and determine which roles it is capable of filling. You could also create a character and (ignoring its role in the book) determine from the build which roles it is capable of filling.
I've mentioned this before, but I find monster roles more useful than PC ones.



These sort of things may be useful to describe an individual character, but I doubt how useful they are on a class level.  Extending such a definition to the class as a whole on the design side of things would limit the ability of classes to have interesting powers and would backtrack away from the excellent game design decisions made when creating the role system for PCs.


 Most classes have a lot of powers that extend, or potentially extend, beyond their primary and secondary roles.  If the design team accepted the philosophy that PC classes should confirm more strictly to how you and Haldrick perceive the character roles then character then powers would become significantly more focused on those roles with fewer cross-role abilities.  Frankly, this gets boring and limits the ability of players to play interesting characters.  Let’s say there’s a proposed power, feat, ability, whatever for a ranger that creates an incentive for the ranger’s quarry to attack the ranger exclusively.  Such a power would be more closely related to a defender than to a striker, but this shouldn’t invalidate the power as it is both interesting, in that it gives the ranger an ability outside the usual striker stuff,  and thematic, by playing off the ranger’s quarry ability.  Certainly such a power should not come around every level, but the ability to select such an ability adds a level of depth to the class that might be absent if the design team dismissed any non-striking power for the striker class.


 In general, monsters are specialists who excel in specific tasks whereas PCs tend to have a broader range of abilities, which is not to say that PCs do not have exceptional specific abilities.  This is very good game design for a campaign-based game because individual monsters, which have bit parts, can still be interesting because they are unique and that PCs remain interesting for players game after game because of their broad ranges of abilities.  It also means that no one character or one role is required around the table; if the cleric’s player is away one week you don’t need to cancel game because other characters have abilities that can fill in for the cleric. Plus, the porous nature of the role classifications allows players greater choice and autonomy in creating the character that the player wants to play, rather than railroading the player into a more limit suite of powers.


 Again, these descriptors might be useful for an individual character or for a party, but I don’t think it is a good idea for them to become guidelines for classes.

Rule one isn’t “The DM is always right.” Rule one is: Everyone should be having fun at the table. Plans for 5e: Kill the d20, and replace it with a bell curve for task resolution.
As anyone familiar with Deconstruction in the academic world today has heard before, I agree with your statement that the roles as defined are poorly specified, but I disagree with how you've delineated them.

Based on my experiences with 4E from Keep on the Shadowfell through to the current post-Powerbook era, there are only two concrete specialized roles unique to any particular classes. These are leaders (specifically their healing) and defenders (specifically their marks and mark-enforcement abilities).

But what about strikers? They do damage. And controllers? They also do damage. As do leaders and defenders. Do some classes to more than others? Do some have more range, or a better ability to affect an area? Yes, but with the options currently available,

And what about buffs/debuffs? Wonderful things to be had for sure, but they are not unique to any class. A rogue uses dazing strike, granting the team combat advantage. +2 to hit. A warlord uses Warlord's Favor, granting someone a +2 to hit. A warlock uses a power and gives an enemy a -2 to defenses. A fighter uses shield push to shove an enemy to a square it is flanked, giving someone combat advantage and a +2 to hit. Et cetera ad nauseum; you get the picture.

Why is healing different, then? Anyone who has played City of Heroes is familiar with the endless debate about negative healing and prevention vs cure. D&D, however, is not City of Heroes. Buffs and debuffs are relatively weak and short-lived; there is no way to ensure the entire party is being hit only 10% or less of the time. Therefore, healing is a necessity in the majority of situations. Only leader classes offer ways to get healing surges used and hit points restored that are:
  • Low cost, in terms of both action required and power choice

  • Efficient, in terms of bonus on top of healing surge value and ability to be repeated multiple times per encounter multiple encounters per day

  • Flexible, in terms of range and other tactical restrictions


To summarize: 4E buffs are too weak to keep Orcus from hitting you, and damage too weak to kill him in one round, so you'll need healing. Leaders are unique in that they provide enough healing.

Why are marks and mark-enforcement different from other debuffs? They aren't. The mark is merely a debuff, or in the abstract sense, a buff. A -2 to hit for the enemy is the same as a +2 to your own defenses, in theory. It is a markedly powerful debuff, for a good defender will be marking one or more enemies every turn from the first turn, while most encounter power debuffs last only a single turn. In addition, the defender will be enforcing it with a secondary effect of varying value.

However, this is what makes a defender a controller in a much more real sense than the controller is. A level 1 defender spits out more battlefield control and debuffing than a level 1 controller.
Khan: 'Note that Haldrik refers to a "classic example". The classic rogue is an infantry/striker/lurker, as we think about it. But the 4th edition rogue can also be artillery/striker/skirmisher.'

   Exactly. I was just comparing the 'classic' classes to give a sense how this nomenclature describes them.

The 'classic' Rogue is primarily an infantry striker lurker. But the Artful Dodger Rogue build would add skirmisher, for example. It is easy to build the Rogue to fill other roles, like artillery. 



'However, I'm not sure "when" these roles are assigned. You could look at a class before character creation and determine which roles it is capable of filling. You could also create a character and (ignoring its role in the book) determine from the build which roles it is capable of filling.'

   Exactly. As a rule, the roles describe a particular class build.

The role names are most useful when building your own character, and deciding what kinds of things you need your character to do. But role names are necessary when analyzing official builds, like Archer Ranger, Slayer Fighter, and so on, and pop builds, like Laser Cleric, Wand Wizard.

BvB: 'my apprehension about further codifying roles'

   Dont worry, the roles in this thread are 'descriptive', not 'prescriptive'. Their purpose is to describe what the roles of a class build actually are, not what the class is 'supposed' to be.

By the way, WotC itself has abandoned the class-role identity. Now for example: Fighter ≠ defender. In Essentials, the Knight Fighter is a defender, but the Slayer Fighter is a striker. Thus WotC themselves seem to be moving toward a more meaningful descriptive approach, describing whatever role each class build actually does. It is welcome news.



'As you look, more classes don’t fit nicely into a few classifications.'

   Heh. Thats the point of the thread. Too often, the 'official' role names dont match the classes. Thats why Character Optimization needs role names that can match the classes, or more specifically the class builds.

Shimeran: 'I find monster roles more useful than PC ones.'

   Same here. The monster roles are clearer, more meaningful, and more useful. It is telling when the DMG, when refering to the monster roles, says the Wizard class isnt really a 'controller' monster role, but is actually an 'artillery' monster role. Indeed, the classic Wizard is an artillery.

It was my attempt to apply the monster roles to the class builds that gave me enough traction to get a sense of what is actually going on.



'Rather than saying, "we need a defender", I think "we need more defense and control" would be better.'

   Exactly. Once we have meaningful names, we can start talking about roles in more powerful ways.

Compare the striker role. This is the one role that char ops has clearly identified: 'high damage to a single target'. And look at the results, remarkable achievements of dpr. Once we clarify the other roles we can achieve similar levels of optimization for them too.

This is why I would argue there are only three roles, not four. Control, damage, and healing. We could even abstract healing as a subtype of control, as a sort of retroactive control with which we undo an action we failed to control.

Therefore, if we really want to make things visual, imagine a triangle. A corner each represents control, damage, and healing. A rogue might offer more control than most strikers, and would therefore be a point nearer to the middle than a ranger, who provides more damage. To make it even more complicated, we could represent classes as lines or triangles of their own, with various builds connected on a scale. A 3d axis could be used to represent the difference between AoE and single target damage, temporary and actual HP healing, and offensive debuffs and defensive buffs.

Then you come up with arbitrary units to value these things, and make your players as a group add up to some even more arbitrary amount.

"I'm sorry, Phil, but you WILL be playing a world speaker shaman multi-classed into assassin. Who is left-handed."
Cyzyk: 'I would argue there are only three roles, not four. Control, damage, and healing.'

   Actually ... you may be touching on the same structure: 'control, damage, and healing'.

• Attack roles (infantry, artillery, striker, blaster) / Buffer / Defender ≈ 'damage'
• Heavy roles (brute, soldier) / Healer / Execrator ≈ 'healing'
• Light roles (skirmisher, lurker) / Marshal / Engineer ≈ 'controller'

There is a 'triangle' of sorts.



Edit: while discussing the term 'controller' I decided to use the term in its larger sense. Instead I introduce the term 'execrator' (one who curses enemies) to refer to someone who 'inflicts lasting conditions'. I update the original post accordingly.

PS: While thinking of the nomenclature, I decided to rename the 'tactic role' as the 'light role'. Thus both terms derive from military history, referring to 'light infantry' who were highly mobile and 'heavy infantry' who were heavily armored. The term skirmisher is in fact an other name for light infantry. The stealthy lurker is really 'special forces', but this evolved from light infantry anyway, and the lurker fits the 'light' category well enough. Meanwhile, the term 'soldier' seems to be a D&D-ism that refers to the armored 'heavy infantry' anyway, and the tough brute fits the 'heavy' category well enough.

PPS: I also changed the name weaponmaster to buffer, the leader role that boosts attacks and damage. Tho the term buff derives from bodybuilding, it enjoys wide use, and most gamers will be more familiar with what the role name means. For the more medievalesque feel, buff still retains its wider meaning, to make someone shine, in this case, ally combatants shine.
This is why I would argue there are only three roles, not four. Control, damage, and healing. We could even abstract healing as a subtype of control, as a sort of retroactive control with which we undo an action we failed to control.

I disagree rather strongly with this. Damage alone is at least three roles: ranged single-target, melee single-target, and area. And if you insist on considering those sub-roles and don't allow more major roles, then there are a few more damage sub-roles including attack-buffing, defense-debuffing, and action-granting. Those are six substantially different functions.

Then there's the complication that a granted action might be used for control or healing instead of - or in addition to - damage.

And if you have such broad categories... healing your striker increases party damage, so it's a damage function.

"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose
Looking back over this lead me to the question: "What do you want a role to do?"

To me it seems like a role should answer two questions:
  • Playstyle: What does the character do?  This is an important question for the controlling player.

  • Contribution: How does the character help the group?  This question is more important to the team as a whole.


The two seem to be intertwined, so let's take a look at the contribution part.

Most combats take a "last man standing" approach.  That means you win if every enemy is eliminated before everyone on your side is.  This gives us two general ways to contribute.
  • Offense: reduce the time until all enemies are eliminated

  • Defense: increase the time until your side is eliminated


Note that both sides tend to feedback on each other.  High offense means fewer enemies which means less damage taken.  High defense helps a larger portion of the team stay standing which helps keep offense high later into the battle.

Here are some of the most common ways of pursuing these goals.
  • Damage: Every combatant seems to have some of this.  In effect, the one side's damage output divided over their enemies hit point total acts as a kind of countdown to the end of the fight.  It's interesting to note that while high damage by itself if primarily offense, the ability to focus fire actually somewhat defensive as it's drops enemy damage output faster.
    • Direct Damage just applies the damage effect immediately to the target.

    • Granted Damage does damage through an ally.  This can be done either by raising an allies defenses or by lowering the enemies defenses.

    • Conditional Damage happens when the target violates certain restrictions.  As such, it's most effective at forcing the enemy to make difficult decisions.


  • Protect: This is a broad category for effects that increase the staying power of one's own team.  Most direct defensive abilities will be here.  Common types of protection include.
    • Durability raises the character's own defenses.  While this does increase the total time to down the group.  However, unless the character has a way to share their durability less resilient allies will tend to be targetted, which lowers the team's offense as they drop.  Shielding (marks) and conditional control (mark penalties) are common ways of sharing durability (often by being a hit magnet).

    • Shielding raises the defense of team members, either selectively or in groups.

    • Recovery removes harmful effects from team members.  Recovery from damage (healing) raises the parties defense.  Recovery from other conditions helps whatever aspect was reduced by the condition.  For example, recovery from weakness raises the teams offense.


  • Control: This is all about reducing the effectiveness of enemies.
    • Interference or debuffing is about lowering enemies ability to do certain actions.

    • Ultimatums are about forcing a choice on enemies to manipulate their actions.

    • Hard Control forces the enemy to take or forfeit certain actions.


  • Assist: This is about raising the effectiveness of allies.  Offensive assists can overlap with granted damage while defensive assists can overlap with shielding and recovery.


That gives us 3-4 ways a character can contribute (depending on whether you include assist as it's own category).
Interested in a rambling collection of game ideas? Check out Schemes of the Dancing Chimera.
Shimeran, overall your post seems to take a different approach but to arrive at similar conclusions.

When quoting you, I inserted my equivalent nomenclature and brief comments in brackets [ ] for the sake of comparison.

Most combats take a "last man standing" approach.  That means you win if every enemy is eliminated before everyone on your side is. This gives us two general ways to contribute.

• Offense [attack roles / buffer leader role / execrator controller role]: reduce the time until all enemies are eliminated
• Defense [heavy roles / healer leader role / defender controller role]: increase the time until your side is eliminated

• [Dual Use [light roles / marshal leader role / engineer controller]]



Your above definition for 'offense' versus 'defense' is a clean and helpful: reduce enemy time versus increase ally time.

I just wanted to note some complications:
• The light roles (mobility and strength) are inherently dual use, being both offensive to reach an enemy target and defensive to evade an enemy attack.
• Normally, we think of the leader as defensive, but the leader is also offensive and comprises several roles: the healer role is defensive when healing and improving defenses, the buffer is offensive when buffing attacks and damage, and marshal is dual-use when improving mobility and stealth.
• Oppositely, we think of the controller as offensive, but the controller is also defensive and comprises several roles: the execrator is indirectly offensive when reducing enemy defenses thus making enemies more vulnerable to ally attacks, meanwhile the defender is indirectly defensive when reducing enemy attacks thus making allies more resistent to enemy attacks. The engineer is dual-use by creating terrain to barricade enemy mobility thus offensively clustering enemies for area attacks and denying escape as well as defensively preventing enemy attacks from reaching allies.
Here are some of the most common ways of pursuing these [offense-defense] goals.

• Damage:
Every combatant seems to have some of this.  In effect, the one side's damage output divided over their enemies hit point total acts as a kind of countdown to the end of the fight.  It's interesting to note that while high damage by itself if primarily offense, the ability to focus fire actually somewhat defensive as it's drops enemy damage output faster.

• Direct Damage [Attack roles]
 just applies the damage effect immediately to the target.
• Granted Damage [Buffer leader role] does damage through an ally.  This can be done either by raising an allies defenses or by lowering the enemies defenses.
Conditional Damage [Execrator controller role] happens when the target violates certain restrictions.  As such, it's most effective at forcing the enemy to make difficult decisions.

In the quote above, the attack and related roles seem clear. Gain high attack and damage (attack roles), improve the attack and damage of others (buffer leader role), and reduce enemy defenses to these attacks and reduce resistances to this damage (execrator controller role).



• Protect: This is a broad category for effects that increase the staying power of one's own team.  Most direct defensive abilities will be here.  Common types of protection include.
  •  
    • Durability [Heavy roles] raises the character's own defenses.  While this does increase the total time to down the group.  However, unless the character has a way to share their durability less resilient allies will tend to be targetted, which lowers the team's offense as they drop. 

    • Shielding [Defender controller role] (marks) and conditional control (mark penalties) are common ways of sharing durability (often by being a hit magnet).

    • Shielding  [Healer leader role] raises the defense of team members, either selectively or in groups.

    • Recovery [Healer leader role] removes harmful effects from team members.  Recovery from damage (healing) raises the parties defense. 

    • Recovery from other conditions helps whatever aspect was reduced by the condition. For example, recovery from weakness raises the teams offense.



You refer to the defender role by its 'shielding' 'mark'. Notably, while the defender is 'defense' role, it is actually a kind of controller. The 'mark' by the defender is a controller status condition that debuffs enemy attacks, and is in the same catagory as the 'weaken' status condition that debuffs damage. Another way to debuff damage is the aegis of the Shielding Swordmage. (Notice, the Knight 'Defender Aura' is a kind of controller terrain, not unlike the partially 'obscured' terrain that also debuffs attacks, inflicting a −2 to attacks.) And so on. The defender is very much a controller, specifically one that debuffs enemy attacks and damage.

Exept for the special case of the defender, I notice, the rest of what you call 'protect' relates to the heavy roles. The brute heavy role has high hit points, and the soldier heavy role has high defenses. Meanwhile the healer relates by imbuing allies with these heavy roles, adding hit points thus transforming allies into brutes, and improving defenses ('shielding') thus transforming them into soldiers.

You didnt mention directly the role of the execrator controller that reduces the heavy roles, by sabotaging the defenses, by penetrating resistances, and by bleeding hit points via ongoing damage. You did refer the role of the healer leader (as 'recovery') that removes the controllers anti-heavy conditions.



Notice the overall structure. Here red refers to the attack roles, while blue refers to the defense roles.

Attack roles / Buffer leader role (improves attack roles) / Defender controller role (diminishes attack roles)
Heavy roles / Healer leader role (improves heavy roles) / Execrator light roles (diminishes heavy roles)

Attack roles relate to dealing damage, and heavy roles relate to surviving damage. However notice the how the controller roles reverse when talking about 'offense' versus 'defense':

Offense: Attack roles / Buffer leader role (improves attack roles) / Execrator controller role (diminishes heavy roles)
Defense: Heavy roles / Healer leader role (improves heavy roles) / Defender controller role(diminishes attack roles)

The twist happens because diminishing the heavy roles of enemies (when the execrator deals ongoing damage and reduces defenses) indirectly makes enemies suffer attacks. Oppositely, diminishing the attack roles of enemies (when the defender debuffs attacks and damages) indirectly makes allies have better defenses against the attacks.



All in all, the considerations, that you list coheres well with the roles that the original post lists.


Edit: In discussing the 'defender' role, I decided to call it the 'debuffer' role. The new name helps specify the meaning because this 'debuffer controller role' is the opposite of the 'buffer leader role'. Where the debuffer impairs attack and damage, the buffer enhances attack and damage. Moreover, the new name avoids confusion, since it avoids actually saying, 'The defender is a subset of controller'. Tho absolutely true, the surprise may distract some readers from the intended meaning. I updated the original post accordingly and added a sentence noting the 'defender' is really a kind of controller.

You refer to the defender role by its 'shielding' 'mark'. Notably, while the defender is 'defense' role, it is actually a kind of controller.


The list I put up covered ways a character can contribute to the party winning fights.  This isn't quite the same as a list of role since a given role can use more than one of these approaches.

The defender is an excellent example of this.  They make strong use of an ultimatum/cache 22 approach to take the hit for allies.  However, any good cache 22 will have two different but costly consequences for either choice.  That's where the other approachs comes in.  If the enemy obeys the mark, the defender uses the durability to minimize the effects of the attack on the party.  If they violate the mark, the defender uses a shielding effect plus their mark punishment ability instead.

This means a defender uses a strong combination of at least 3 of the above approaches to do their job.  I suspect any character that specializes in cache 22 situations will have a similarly broad set of approaches to fill out the consequences for the enemy.  In the defender's case I suspect durability came first and control was added to let them share their survivability with the party.

You didnt mention directly the role of the execrator controller that reduces the heavy roles, by sabotaging the defenses, by penetrating resistances, and by bleeding hit points via ongoing damage.


That's another case where the mentioned role covers multiple approaches.  Reducing defenses generally functions as a form of granted damage as it raises allies' dpr.  Penetrating resistances really just help keep the user's direct damage up while ongoing damage is a specialized flavor of direct damage.  Overall the role is heavy in either doing damage or making it easier for others to do so.

Edit: In discussing the 'defender' role, I decided to call it the 'debuffer' role. The new name helps specify the meaning because this 'debuffer controller role' is the opposite of the 'buffer leader role'.


I'd lean away from that actually as debuffs can cover a variety of effects.  After all, aren't defense lowering conditions just as much of a debuff as offense lowering ones are?  While the defender is good at lowering offense they're relatively short on defense lowering ones.  That tends to lie more in the leader role.

Interested in a rambling collection of game ideas? Check out Schemes of the Dancing Chimera.
Shimeran: 'Id lean away from [naming the role debuffer] actually as debuffs can cover a variety of effects.'

   Fair enough. I went back to the previous role names, for marshal feel tactician was more accurate. I update the firstpost accordingly.

   Leader Roles
   • Weaponmaster (buff attack roles)
   • Healer (fortify heavy roles)
   • Tactician (mobilize light roles)
   Controller Roles
   • Defender (debuff attack roles)
   • Execrator (enervate heavy roles)
   • Engineer (paralyze light roles)

Any opinions on the name weaponmaster for the role of buffing ally attack, damage, basic attacks, range, reach, and similar?
In which ways do you expect that these role tags will/could change character building?
In which ways do you expect that these role tags will/could change character building?



The main goal is to understand and measure how well each class can fulfill the various roles. This is especially important for team optimization, improving how well individuals work together.
Check it out! At the end of the original post, I added a handy reference table to locate the Class-Race Abilities Synergy Table.

The 'CRAS' Table.

The CRAS Table lists the primary and secondary abilities, the races that boost both of these, and the class builds that use them.

The Table lists both the 'official' build names, as well as the more familiar fan build names, that tend to refer to the definitive class feature or primary ability.

The class builds should be accurate per Char Op. Omitting the less-helpful 'official' advice if necessary and adding the more-helpful Char Op advice if there seems a consensus. Some of these classes I havent personally played, and for these I rely on build handbooks (which are sometimes too vague about exactly which build benefits from which ability) and on sample builds (which are sometimes corner cases that dont normally represent the class).

Please, proofread for accuracy.

Also post important builds that I may have missed.



For now, the CRAS Table only lists the pure classes (without multiclass or hybriding) to get a sense of what the classes themselves are capable. (However, the Table does list any unusual ability pairs for weapon specializations and significant Paragon Paths that force the class to rebuild around them.)
In which ways do you expect that these role tags will/could change character building?

I believe one of the major intents - and potentially useful functions - of the list of roles is to guide in party-building, as suggested on PHB1 page 15: "Roles also serve as handy tools for building adventuring parties. It's a good idea to cover each role with at least one character."

The problem is that the existing roles fail utterly in this. You can easily build a very good leader and a very good striker, to provide those two roles in your party; but if they happen to be a Warlord that hands out MBAs every turn and frequently more than one, and a ranged Ranger that hits for massive damage with his bow, your party is not off to a good start. A defender that gives up a touch of durability for more stickiness and damage, relying on the leader to heal, can be very good... if combined with a leader that is heavy on healing. Not so much with a leader that is light on healing in order to provide some other benefit.

For that matter, it's possible to build a party that does everything really needful to be effective in combat but doesn't have all four roles.

What I want out of roles is a list of, I don't know, maybe six high-priority roles and six low-priority, that if your party covers all the high-priority roles and at least half the low-priority ones then you have at least a decent party - and if you don't, you have some serious weaknesses that you need to find a way to address. Obviously this is going to mean that most characters have more than one role.
"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose
What I want out of roles is a list of, I don't know, maybe six high-priority roles and six low-priority, that if your party covers all the high-priority roles and at least half the low-priority ones then you have at least a decent party - and if you don't, you have some serious weaknesses that you need to find a way to address. Obviously this is going to mean that most characters have more than one role.


Sounds doable.

What I want out of roles is a list of, I don't know, maybe six high-priority roles and six low-priority, that if your party covers all the high-priority roles and at least half the low-priority ones then you have at least a decent party - and if you don't, you have some serious weaknesses that you need to find a way to address. Obviously this is going to mean that most characters have more than one role.

My experience with LFR has been that covering the roles isn't actually the most important thing.  I've been at all-striker tables and all striker-controller tables that did amazingly well.  I've been at tables that covered all four roles that did well, and others that did poorly.  Common wisdom that leaders and defenders are essential is wrong--but it's a factor of builds and play style.  Some characters are built in such a way that they need support (e.g. fragile melee characters, or characters with oodles of HP and surges but no way of accessing them directly except Second Wind).  Others are better balanced and can stand on their own, though are less impressive at a single task.  A very small number are true Renaissance builds and can do multiple things well; somewhat more aren't really any good at anything.

If certain roles (using Haldrik's nomenclature or otherwise) are deemed to be more important or valuable than others, it requires making assumptions about the rest of the party.  For instance, a "Healer" leader is often considered the most critical type, but in a party with above-average defense and below-average offense, a Weaponmaster is considerably more useful.  When a party is really fragile, an "Infantry-Soldier-Defender" is the archetypal solution, but an "Artillery-Blaster-Engineer" can also be a very, very potent alternative.  And so on.

What is the "average" party?  I'm not sure, and I think the classes very enough that making any assumptions at all is dangerous.  Even taking the most common types (Infantry-Soldier-Defender and Striker-Skirmishers, I think), there's a lot of variance between builds and even play styles.

"Edison didn't succeed the first time he invented Benjamin Franklin, either." Albert the Alligator, Walt Kelly's Pogo Sunday Book  
The Core Coliseum: test out your 4e builds and fight to the death.

The four official player roles (defender, striker, leader, and controller) derive vaguely from the four 'classic' classes (Fighter, Rogue, Cleric, and Wizard). The devs knew they were onto something but couldnt quite put their finger on it, so left the roles unspecified.



I discern, this is the structure that forms the four archetypical classes:

Fighter - heavy roles
Rogue - light roles
Cleric - leader roles
Wizard - controller roles

Four archetypes and four sets of roles.
Notice, none of these archetypical role sets include the attack roles. Thats because all the archetypical roles deal damage. Each one corresponds loosely with a particular attack role, to deal damage in a way that synergizes well with the archetype.

Fighter - heavy roles - infantry blaster
Rogue - light roles - infantry striker
Cleric - leader roles - artillery striker (!)
Wizard - controller roles - artillery blaster

The attack roles complement the archetypes straightforwardly enough.
• The heavy Fighter has high defenses (soldier) andor high hit points (brute), and can wade into enemy lines to occupy a strategic position on the battlefield. The enemies embattle the Fighter to regain control of the position. Thus the Fighters heavy role synergizes well with the 'infantry blaster' that deals damage to multiple targets simultaneously (close burst, close blast, multi-target melee, 'cleave', etcetera).
• The light Rogue has high mobility (skirmisher) andor high stealth (lurker), and can tumble or sneak past enemy defenses to strike a special target directly. Thus, the Rogues light role synergizes well with the 'infantry striker' that deals extra damage to a single target - becoming the 'special forces' or 'covert ops' that neutralizes the special threat quickly and efficiently.
• The Cleric requires explanation. The 'classic' Cleric has almost always been broken, because the class seems to have never achieved balance with the archetypal structure in play. In 2e the Cleric seemed like a gimp unable to deal damage, because it was hamstrung into a failed infantry Fighter wannabe. In 3e the Cleric was CoDzilla doing all things and killing all obstacles. Nevertheless in 3e, the Zen-Archer Cleric was the best archer build possible, and the resonating archetype enjoyed attacking as an artillery striker. Likewise in 4e, the Cleric beaming 'lasers', like the atwill Lance of Faith along with other ranged single-target attacks, resonates the artillery striker role. The artillery striker complements the leader roles because it can support any ally anywhere. If an enemy is trouncing an ally, and the ally in about to die, then the leader role can save the ally by effectively dispatching the enemy. The leader is troubleshooting the battlefield making sure that all the allies are 'functioning' properly. Notice, when a leader grants an extra basic attack to any ally on the battlefield, this is virtually a ranged single target attack, where an optimized basic attack deals high damage to the single target, and is part of the synergy between leader and artillery striker. It is appropriate for leaders to deal substantial damage, just like all the roles should be dealing substantial damage. When the game embraces damage-dealing leaders, it normalizes the damage, balances it, and prevents the damage from becoming broken (either way).
• The controller Wizard archetype has always dealt substantial damage, especially as an artillery blaster. The wizard personifies Fireball. The reason is, the controller roles debuff enemies in a way that controls the tides of battle. Especially as the creator of terrains (engineer), the Wizard can create a hindering wall of fire or a blocking wall of iron, or winds, to literally barricade or slide the enemy into sections of the battlefield ... where an Area burst is most effective.

The four archetypes synergize all roles efficiently.

By no means do all roles need to match these four archetypical roles. For example, my Storm Sorcerer is a 'light artillery blaster', and not one of the archetypical synergies, neither the 'light infantry striker' nor the 'controller artillery blaster'.

What makes the archetypes, 'archetypes', is the ability to pull all the possibilities into a simplicity of four. So while there are many combinations of roles, seeing these four combinations conveys the sense of seeing everything in the structure at once.
If certain roles (using Haldrik's nomenclature or otherwise) are deemed to be more important or valuable than others, it requires making assumptions about the rest of the party.  For instance, a "Healer" leader is often considered the most critical type, but in a party with above-average defense and below-average offense, a Weaponmaster is considerably more useful.  When a party is really fragile, an "Infantry-Soldier-Defender" is the archetypal solution, but an "Artillery-Blaster-Engineer" can also be a very, very potent alternative.  And so on.



Good insight.

So we wont necessarily be looking for the 'best role', but the best team combo.
I want to allocate the primary responsibility for all the 'impairing' 'status effect' 'conditions' to one role, particularly the 'execrator' controller role.

After an analysis of what each condition does, the following organization seems optimal. It is fair to claim conditions more-or-less belong to controller roles. 
  
    • The defender specializes in conditions that deny or impair attacks, to diminish the attacker roles
    • The execrator specializes in conditions that grant combat advantage, to diminish the heavy roles - but defacto uses all of the conditions
    • The engineer specializes in other conditions that deny or impair movement, to diminish the light roles

The above system for conditions is reasonable, and about as tidy as it can get. Some caveats appear below.



[sblock Caveats]
The various conditions are surprisingly nonsystematic for 4e mechanics. Basically, they are adhoc inheritances (a polite way to say sacred cows) from previous editions without much streamlining.

So the conditions are a bit sprawling.

For example, consider the 'dying' condition. It inflicts a −5 penalty to all defenses. However, because a dying creature is also 'unconscious' and because an unconscious creature is also 'helpless', the dying creature also grants 'combat advantage' to any attackers. In fact, attackers gain a total +7 bonus to attacks against a dying creature. Yet nowhere simply lists this number.

Notice the unnecessary complication. The conditions modify 'both sides of the equation'. On the one side, the condition modifies the 'defenses' (−5) of the target. On the other side, it modifies the 'attack rolls' (+2) of the attackers. A worthwhile streamlining would be to format all conditions to only modify the attack rolls and never modify defenses, just to reduce the number of places where variables may happen. It would be player-friendly for a single column to list a '+7 bonus to attack rolls', instead of inheriting the reference hunting.

Complications like the ones above make it difficult to assign a particular condition to a particular role. For example, by itself, granting a +2 bonus to attack rolls seems like something a weaponmaster *leader* role does. Unfortunately, in this case, its better to think of this not as an ally 'gaining combat advantage' thus a bonus, but rather an enemy 'granting combat advantage' thus a kind of penalty becoming more susceptible to ally attacks. Ultimately, 'granting' (as opposed to 'gaining') combat advantage seems to be the kind of defense penalty that the execrator controller would like to 'inflict'.



With the lack of streamlining, the conditions lack obvious symmetry. Really lack much of any organizing principle. Consider the manipulation of 'actions'.

A controller can remove actions from a target, such as by means of inflicting the 'dazed' condition. Effectively the dazed monster gets reduced to a single standard action. The monster can choose to use this action to make an attack, thusly the condition impedes movement - being of interest to the engineer controller. Alternatively, the monster could use this same standard action to make a move, thus the condition nullifies an attack - being of interest to the defender controller. Despite the choice, monsters typically use a standard action to use an attack power, so typically the dazed condition impairs movement, not attack. Thus it is the engineer who impedes tactical movement that adds the dazed condition to the repertoire.

Notice the asymmetry, a tactician leader who grants an extra move action, such as by swapping ally positions, does somewhat the opposite of the engineer controller who removes a move action by means of dazed.

Notice the absence of systemization. At first glance the 'stunned' condition seems like 'improved dazed', but they are different categories. Stunned and dazed cause dramatically different consequences to the behaviors on a battlefield. Where 'dazed' tends to impair movement thus manipulating tactics, 'stunned' impairs attacks (and everything else of course) thus manipulating the threat against allies. Thus it is the defender, who reduces the enemy attacker roles, who gets the stunned condition in the repertoire.

Stunning can be understood as something that the defender controller does to ruin the enemy attacks, and its near opposite is things like granting an extra basic attack that the weaponmaster leader does to increase ally attacks.



For now a final caveat to explore is the consequences of sprawling (multiple) sub-conditions. For example, where does one put the 'stunned' condition? On the one hand, it nullifies attacks via standard actions, thus useful for a defender controller who ruins attacks. On the other hand, it also nullifies move actions, thus useful to an engineer controller who disables enemy mobility. ... On the third hand it also causes the enemy to grant combat advantage to ally attacks, thus useful to the execrator controller who saps enemy survivability. By the way, the inability to flank is also useful the defender controller who wants to ruin attacks, but is especially relevant to preventing movement and combat positioning, thus an engineer thing. All in all, 'stun locking' the enemy is ultimately valuable because it eliminates the ability of a monster to attack the party, neutralizes any threat, and ultimately seems the effect of the defender controller.
[/sblock]


In sum, conditions derive piecemeal from various editions, thereby tend to lack systemization in 4e now. Even so, there is a workable way to allocate the conditions among the three heavy roles.

   • Defender role (vs. attacker roles): stunned-surprised, weakened, marked, blinded
   • Execrator role (vs. heavy roles ... and all roles): all conditions, including helpless
   • Engineer role (vs. light roles): immobilized, restrained, dazed, removed from play

This is a useful way to think about how conditions affect combat roles.



Notice the problematic. Conditions that make an enemy grant combat advantage are of interest to the execrator: helpless, stunned-surprised, blinded, restrained, and dazed. However, all but one of these include additional effects that hamper an attack andor a movement, thus are also of interest to the defender or engineer respectively.

The best way to explain the interrelationships seems to be as follows. The execrator specializes in inflicting conditions that make enemies more susceptible to harm, thus enervating the heavy roles. Yet also, the execrator ends up with all of the conditions, since most do this. Conveniently, the execrator gains the mastery of the condition itself, as a mechanic, to sabotage any combat role generally. Meanwhile, the defender and the engineer specialize in only some of these conditions.
I tweaked the formating of the Class-Race Abilities Synergy Table in the original post.

In the first post, in the Class-Race Abilities Synergy, I added the 'Shadowy Rogue' build to Dex-Int, in addition to Dex-Wis. There are enough Rogue powers that support Int to constitute a 'build', tho no features do.

There are some paragon path features that really boost a rogue's abilities based on their Int. I don't know if that counts as 'class' or not though...
There are some paragon path features that really boost a rogue's abilities based on their Int. I don't know if that counts as 'class' or not though...



A class paragon path could count as a class 'build'.

For example, the Wandering Swordmage path requires high Wis, which is almost dumpable for the Swordmage class. In order for a Swordmage character to even benefit from the path, the player would have to seriously rebuild it with Wis in mind.

Similarly, if there is a Rogue paragon path that requires high Int, preparing a Rogue character for it would probably count as a unique Rogue build.
First, let me say that i am fine with more concise labels for combat roles.

However, I have to ask if it actually makes defining the roles easy.

In your classic example, a Fighter is (Infantry Soldier Brute Defender).

All that is well and good, but does very little if you don't already know the definiton of those terms. 

If you're going to go through the trouble of defining those terms, wouldn't it be just as easy to say that:

A Fighter is a character that primarily uses close melee attacks, has the advantage of high defenses and high hit points, and can negate enemy attacks, reduce enemy accuracy and damage dealt.

For instance, you could say that a Fighter kills things, a Wizard casts magic, a Cleric heals, and a Rogue sneaks and does traps and locks.

The problem is that every class kills things, so killing things loses its distinction and is no longer unique to the Fighter. Clerics also cast magic, so magic loses its distinction and is no longer unique to the Wizard. The Wizard has spells of invisibility, search, and knock, which fulfill three of the Rogue's functions (in 3.x), so they lose their distinction and are no longer unique to the Rogue.

Saying what a class is known for or good at is its defining characteristic isn't enough when it is in fact shared among several classes which are typically seen as fundamentally different. Their differences must lie somewhere else. 

I suppose the real advantage of using well defined labels rests in their modular use and exchangeability. The problem i see is that the more labels that are used to define classes, the less useful the individual labels actually become. Basically, the more frequently a word is used for different things, the less distinction it has.

Saying what a class can do is all well and good, but to me, what a class can do is not enough of a distinction. I think we should focus on labelling what each class excels at, and what they have that no other class has.

Fighters have the most health and can use the best armor and weapons.
Wizards have powerful magic spells that can attack over distance and hit multiple enemies at once, in addition to a boat load of utility spells.
Clerics specialize in healing and turning the undead. 
Rogues excel at natural stealth, sneak attacks, and can disarm traps.
Barbarians can maximize their damage output in melee.
Rangers excel at ranged combat and utilize some support magic.
Paladins combine melee combat with some support magic.

Anything more becomes class bloat really, which could be boiled down to specific multiclassing or single class builds. Maybe a Paladin is a Fighter/Cleric, and a Ranger is a Rogue/Druid, while Barbarians are Rage Fighters. 

Let the class name be the class lable. 
Raising this thread from the dead serves little purpose. I am sure Haldrik tried, but it was already a mess then, and things certainly have gotten more convoluted since. Please let it go.
Oh, whoops, wasn't paying attention to when the last post was. Sorry, didn't mean to be a necro. I saw the link in Haldrik's sig and got interested. I just assumed it was a more recent thread and didn't bother to check.