Party Composition: Which Roles When?

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While updating my party optimization guide, I realized that I had distilled a great deal of debate on party selection, drawn conclusions, and just built the latest guide without going into any detail. So, here's one somewhat informed opinion on who should be slotted into a party when:

Party Member One: Single-target Striker
Someone who can bring tons of pain to a single target via either multiple attacks or awesome basic attacks should always be the first party member. Top Choices: Ranger, Thief, Slayer, Brutal Scoundrel, Avenger.

Even if the party is only one, a striker is still the choice, though single-target focus is a bit less important and the method becomes irrelevant. In a solo campaign, defending has marginal utility (it can keep ranged opponents from shifting without pain, mostly). Control is even less useful, because you'll rarely be juggling that many numbers in a level-appropriate encounter. So, a single-target death dealer is the ideal approach, though as a solo giving up a little DPR for some durability would be very prudent. This is a good spot for a hybrid build. Top Choices: Githzerai Monk/Wilder, Ranger|Cleric, Ranger|Runepriest, infernal Warlock.

Party Member Two: Defender, With an Asterisk
Once the party becomes a true party, the DM can field enough minions to run strafing runs on single PCs. Someone who can break up Team Monster's focus and endure their attention becomes very important. Top Choices: depends on the striker, per rule 4 of the optimization guide.

Of course, if the party has only two members, some healing would be lovely. You'll need either a solo-style striker in slot 1 or a Paladin as the defender. Or perhaps a solo-style striker in slot 1 and a Fighter with all of his self-healing tricks in slot 2.

Party Member Three: Leader
If the striker is a multiattacker, stock up on accuracy and damage buffs that apply to every swing that he makes. Leverage what you do. If the striker has an awesome MBA or RBA, stock up on powers that let him use it again on your turn. Be the striker, while still rocking your own tricks. Top Choices: Warlord.

Party Member Four: Leader 2
You know what's more awesome than a Thief who does a kazillion-hit sneak attack twice per round? That's right, a Thief who does it three times a round. You've been peaking ahead, haven't you? Top Choices: War ... well, OK, we've done that. For extra basic attacks, the Shaman is top tier while the Ardent brings extra attacks or a slew of other useful riders (extra saving throws!). For parties built around a multiattacker, the Artificer both buffs and can spread healing surges. In practice, this means that he himself gets to donate to the Keep the Ranger on His Feet fund, quite often ...

Party Member Five: Controller
Yea, the DM can paradrop a kazillion minions on your heads by this point. Yea, you need one now. Top Choices: You'll never go wrong with an orb Wizard if the DM bothers with rituals, or a Mage if he doesn't.

Party Member Six: Striker 2
The party's leaders already have their walking, talking weapon in striker 1, so this guy probably should be a multiple-target specialist, who softens up opponents while they wait for striker 1's attention and simultaneously ensures that the specialists don't waste their talents on minions. Top Choices: Monk, Sorcerer.

Party Member Seven: Defender 2
If a Battlemind wasn't your first choice, then he makes an excellent second defender. Being able to divert attacks without previously marking the attacker is a real nice ability when the battles get this large and fluid. If you already have a Battlemind, and you're optimizing party build, then you probably have a ranged-heavy party. In that case, one of those Wardens who grabs everyone and immobilizes them in a zone around him will add huge value.

Party Member Eight: Controller 2
Forget the kazillion minions dropping on your heads. It's the kazillion other minions popping out of hidey holes and screaming "Wolverines!" that really should alarm you. Top Choices: Eh, grab an Invoker and scream "Iahveh rocks!" right back at them.

Party Member Nine: Leader 3
Four sneak attacks per round? Be still, my beating munchkin heart. Top Choices: It wouldn't be completely shameful to go to another flavor of Warlord, here.

Party Member Ten+: Uh What The?
Move half the party to Los Angeles and start a XXXXers West chapter, for Pete's sake.
You're talking giant basic attacks, yet the Slayer and Barbarian aren't mentioned (especially the former)? What's up with that? I know that Sneak Attack is cute and all, but you still have to get combat advantage to get it, and we're talking Rapier vs. Gouge as far as [W] is concerned, here.

I also have to say I disagree with your order somewhat. For me, this is how it goes:

1. Striker - Bring the pain. Ranger, Barbarian, Avenger, Rogue, Slayer, et al.
2. Leader - Feed the party. Warlord, Ardent, Bard, Cleric, Shaman, Runepriest, et al.
3. Defender - Keep the other guys upright. Fighter, Battlemind, Warden, Paladin, Swordmage, et al.
4. Controller - Mess with people. Wizard, Invoker, Psion, Druid, et al.
5. 2nd Striker - Tag-team pain. The previous list, plus Monk, Sorcerer if you want to soften multiple oponents up simultaneously.
6. 2nd Leader
7. 2nd Defender
8. 2nd Controller
9. 3rd Striker (NOT an AoE guy - a single target guy)

That said, you can probably talk me into switching 5 and 6. That one can be a judgment call.

8. 2nd Controller
9. 3rd Striker (NOT an AoE guy - a single target guy)



I love controllers but I'd generally take a third striker over a second controller, especially since almost all other characters bring some control to the table. However, this changes depending on the type of controller. Single target controllers like Enchanters and some Psions double up a lot better than area controllers like most wizards and invokers.
1-man party: I think anything can work here, defender (fighter, paladin, etc), striker (barbarian, ranger, etc), maybe leader (Runepriest), maybe even a controller (druid) could duke it out well enough.

2-man party: Leader + anything. Striker probably works best but Defender will also work just fine.

3-man party: Three easy to remember letters, LSD.

4-man party: LSD + striker or controller

5-man party: As long as there is LSD+S/C, the rest doesn't matter.

I also think role composition is not gospel. You can fake roles pretty well these days. I think the most important key to optimization is how well do you synergize with your leader and if you have one, your controller, and how flexible/balanced you are with melee vs ranged.

I'd almost always start a party with, "Who wants to play the leader"? Next question "What do you want to play?" Once we have that answer, then we can begin the work.

And if you have three or more players, "Who is playing the ranger?" is a good question to ask.


*good stuff*

3-man party: Three easy to remember letters, LSD.

*more good stuff*

And if you have three or more players, "Who is playing the ranger?" is a good question to ask.



You see this, right here? Mengu74 won this thread on these two alone.
I tend to go more general:

1. Strong single target Striker--focus fire is the best way, and one of these is the core of a focus fire strategy

2. Healer--A healer of some sort is generally required to even out the randomness of enemy hits

3. Defender--Prevents the enemy from focus firing you

These three are mandatory. Outside of these, it becomes less clear cut. In no particular order:


1. Controller--These are very strong, but not mandatory

2. Blaster--Defined as a character who deals Striker-style damage to multiple enemies without focusing on a single target. These generally don't fulfill the Striker role well(they generally would rather hit three undamaged enemies than the focus fire target alone), but they are incredible at doing their own thing

3. Duelist--Pursuit Avenger is the prime example here, and the main aim is to create a sticky character who can render one enemy ineffective just by being in its face. Its a niche role, but in essence can make a 5 vs 5 combat into 5 vs 4, and these guys are kryptonite to many enemies(Artillery and mobility dependant Skirmishers).

4. Opportunist--Generally a combination of Controller and a strong sub-role, and examples would include Beast Druids and most Warlocks(Warlock debuffs tend to be best used to cripple strong enemies, as opposed to the focus fire target). These guys aren't as strong in the Controller role as a pure Controller, but often can take better advantage of a changing situation and are more effective than most controllers on the back end of combat.

5. Second Striker--Damage is the one thing in 4E you can't have too much of.

6. Second Defender--Two Defenders can work off each other and lock the entire fight down, with the caveat that if you have two Defenders at least one of them needs to hit really hard.

7. Second Leader--I'm not a big fan of these, since they contribute to grind.
...whatever
I think I'm more with LDB and thecasualol on this ... S+L+D+C

Controllers are vital, I find. Being able to lock down Team Monster for even a round can really make a difference, allowing better positioning for Team Player; reliable soft control (attack or, more importantly, defense debuffs) increases party survivability/damage output considerably. Leaders bring this to the table with attack bonuses and the like (which is why they're listed first), but if you put the two together, and everyone is hitting all the time, your damage goes up that much faster and Team Monster goes down that much easier.

Plus, control is SATISFYING. Denying the BBEG (or even regular monsters) major actions feels good and keeps the party going.

Another thing to point out is that having everyone focus on dealing high damage is pretty important. I just played in a delve (the 8th level one) in which we ran 4 PCs through the standard encounters. I was running Killswitch and a version of the Most Annoying Halfling Rogue Ever, and my friend had a psychic damage focus psion and a sword/board fighter. The combination of control (in the form of debufffs rather than Hard control like dazing, stunning, immobilizing, etc), out of turn attacks (from Killswitch), minor action attacks (from rogue), and solid defense from the fighter allowed us to survive each encounter without anyone dropping.

With that being said, your 5th slot is best filled by a striker. They have mobility and defense tricks a lot of leaders don't have, they deal better damage than controllers, they don't interfere with Defender 1 by also defending (which incidentally makes it harder to focus fire), and they bring, well, more damage to the table. The best CHOICE of striker is party dependent. Have one of LDBs barbarians in the front line? Play a ranged ranger or a warlock (maybe a sorcerer). Need some more front line action? Avenger, Rogue, Ranger, Barbarian ... most strikers, frankly, all good choices.

Ultimately, well balanced is important, and one OTHER thing to keep in mind is skill synergy. Rogues may have one of the most swingy extra damage features, but they also get 6 skills.

Anyway.

-J
@LDB: Just plain forgot the Slayer. No argument there. And if I'm on the fence about anything, it's whether a leader or defender is the better partner in a two-person crew. At heroic, I think a defender adds more value in mitigating damage (which is considerably more valuable than repairing it, over the course of an entire workday). At epic, a leader probably adds more value in buffing the alpha strike and repairing damage when things unravel. Somewhere in paragon their relative worth probably flips.

I very much think that in most parties slot 4 belongs to a second leader, who can bring the striker's DPR and enhance party durability at the same time. But yes, by this point the party is large enough that minion strafing runs can become a real concern, though for instance a Ranger, dual-wielding Fighter, and Ardent have little to worry about. Slot 4 is a tipping point depending on the mix of builds, and by slot 5 the controller needs to be in play.

And I'm just not as sold on the value of a second striker, unless the first one is in the habit of getting himself killed. ;) Given the right leader-striker pairings on the board, of course.

@akschmid: I don't have much experience with parties that large myself, but I certainly can see the theoretical prudence of bumping up the entry of the second controller. At 8+ members, a given PC becomes a trivial percentage of the party's overall damage-enduring capacity. A Team Monster that reasonably drains 15% of party HPs before going down is a modest threat with 4 in the group; it becomes an almost sure PC death vs a party of 8. The baseline damage for a level-appropriate encounter is way higher than 15%, by the way.

We like to advise everyone to take Improved Initiative, but really, these days how many non-controllers really find room in their builds? Especially if the party suffers a surprise round, any mediocre initiative showing could leave someone on the floor, and controllers are the role with the responsibility to be fast-draw experts and keep that from taking place.

@Mengu74: Solo campaigns I do know, and while a defender can do OK, dumping damage on Team Monster in a hurry becomes even more important for solos, because they can't depend on a buddy to bail them out from status effects. Some level of healing is essential, too---Fighters and Paladins do sorta OK in that---but hybriding striker DPR to leader healing (or an alternate schtick such as spamming Steel Wind with the Wilder PP) works better in my experience. Pure leaders lack the DPR and will burn surges fiercely. Controllers? Just, no.

@Mengu74: Solo campaigns I do know, and while a defender can do OK, dumping damage on Team Monster in a hurry becomes even more important for solos, because they can't depend on a buddy to bail them out from status effects. Some level of healing is essential, too---Fighters and Paladins do sorta OK in that---but hybriding striker DPR to leader healing (or an alternate schtick such as spamming Steel Wind with the Wilder PP) works better in my experience. Pure leaders lack the DPR and will burn surges fiercely. Controllers? Just, no.


Even at level 1, if someone hits my Runepriest, he can deal 2d6+10, or heal up and nova for 40'ish damage with an action point, more if he uses a daily. DPR is not a problem. Defenders have plenty of DPR tools.

Controllers have a bit more difficult time with DPR, but more importantly, they are awesome at dealing with minions which is important in a solo campaign. Is it the best choice? Probably not, but certainly manageable.
Even at level 1, if someone hits my Runepriest, he can deal 2d6+10, or heal up and nova for 40'ish damage with an action point, more if he uses a daily. DPR is not a problem. Defenders have plenty of DPR tools.

The wrathful Runepriest pretty much already is a hybrid striker-leader, so I don't know that it invalidates my point.

That particular build has another problem. You're fielding AC 17, Fortitude 14, Reflex 11, Will 13, and the latter two keep on falling behind. Any solo concept with two poor NADs is basically whispering to the DM, "I know you can take me out whenever you feel like it, and you know you can take me out whenever you feel like it, but let's both just pretend, OK?"

The wrathful Runepriest probably is the best of the single-NAD builds for solo play (the dwarven Battlerager also being a contender, of course), but even with Constitution as a primary the Runepriest will suck his surge tank dry in short order. 

Controllers have a bit more difficult time with DPR, but more importantly, they are awesome at dealing with minions which is important in a solo campaign.

That's a common fallacy but the truth is completely opposite. The DM can't field enough minions to scare a good solo build and stay within hailing distance of encounter guidelines. Solos would scare solos if they fell within guidelines, so as it is elites scare solos. Carving up padded sumos quickly is Job 1.

Minions should worry the bejeezel out of oversized parties, especially those that think they need another Ranger because AoE sucks, as discussed above.

I think there's a flawed assumption in all this, and that's that the "optimal party" is going to proceed along WotC's roles.  There's an enormous difference between a warlord and a cleric in terms of where I'd rank them in this schema, and similarly with a warlock and a wizard.

1) Ranger, Slayer, Barbarian, or Avenger.  These guys are consistently at the top of both burst damage and round-by-round damage piles, are likely impervious to errata in their single-class forms, and the non-rangers recieve granted attacks better than anyone else.  They can also hold a melee line for a couple rounds.

2) Shaman or Warlord.  Provide a melee body, bust out the attack granter and party-wide nova ability.  Minimum healing is ok, but you'll need some saving throws.

3) Defender, with a clear secondary role (doesn't matter which).

*NOTE: None of "LSD" are purely ranged characters.

4) Bard, White Mage, Warlock, Paladin.  What?  This slot, I fully believe, has nothing to do with "role" and everything to do with "Can you completely shut down a single target multiple times per encounter?"  We're concerned less with incapacitating solos here, who are getting better against such shenanigans according to the Red Dragon preview, but more controllers, elites, and whichever dangerous guy happens to be out of position at the right time.

5) Fill holes, wrapping around your defender's secondary role and slot #4's primary role.  By this point you should have an off-tank and a second character who can hand out saving throws.  Within 5 characters, then, you have some measure of redundancy in each role-- two markers, a healer and a backup, at least 2.5 strikers (a striker, a leader who can hit things with his striker, and either a secondary role or a nova-enabler in the remaining three characters), and a solid melee-range balance.
1) Ranger, Slayer, Barbarian, or Avenger.

Obviously, I'd add the Thief and Brutal Scoundrel. I can't imagine the designers pulling an errata on the new Sneak Attack after dramatically empowering it in the first place.

2) Shaman or Warlord.  Provide a melee body, bust out the attack granter and party-wide nova ability.  Minimum healing is ok, but you'll need some saving throws.

Saving throws and Talaric Strategist are the reasons why I place Ardents in this A-list, myself. I really need to get around to designing that Psychic Mafia ... 

3) Defender, with a clear secondary role (doesn't matter which).

I don't know. As a DM, I would smile to myself at a Called Shot melee Ranger hitting the board with a Fighter. I think defender and striker mechanics are very much intertwined.
To be fair, a Prime Shot Ranger loves a Polearm Master Fighter like a brother.
To be fair, a Prime Shot Ranger loves a Polearm Master Fighter like a brother.

Oof. I can't concede that point quickly enough. ;)

A thread like this needs two separate sets of advice. One set of advice for the people who live on this board and game with people like themselves, and one set of advice for people who aren't professional optimizers but come here to learn how to build better characters. Good advice for professional optimizers is bad advice for us lesser folks.
...whatever
Well, I'm trying to respond to the thread's theme of roles rather than spell out my idea of the perfect party.  I had Fighter typed up instead of defender at first, but pulled back before posting.  That said, I think a Son of Mercy or Champion of Order can be equally devestating, and my favorite fighters are actually the striking Wis-monkeys or at-will dazers rather than the Polearm tricks.
Well, I'm trying to respond to the thread's theme of roles rather than spell out my idea of the perfect party.  I had Fighter typed up instead of defender at first, but pulled back before posting.  That said, I think a Son of Mercy or Champion of Order can be equally devestating, and my favorite fighters are actually the striking Wis-monkeys or at-will dazers rather than the Polearm tricks.

Point taken, and yea both of those PPs are devastating. I have sheer geek lust for Overwhelming Impact, despite my irrational aversion to Strength-Constitution builds.
I have sheer geek lust for Overwhelming Impact, despite my irrational aversion to Strength-Constitution builds.



Which is part of why I let the paladin builds slide in... both Son of Mercy or the Chaladin can pick Overwhelming Impact up while maintaining a robust secondary role and a high Will defense.
TLDR: Mengu pretty much summed it up (sans some minor points).


But to add some details here:

Solo:

This is a different game than group. So my first question would be rather: Which race ? Dwarf ! Well, not necessarily, but always a very good choice.
Beyond that almost every class can be solid on its own:
-- D/S: already discussed
-- L: There are some solid that don't make combat drag, and they're very sturdy and surge efficient.
-- C: Druids are great solos, and so in fact are the much misbegotten Seekers. Wrathvokers do fine, and certain Psion certainly as well (would run my Ms. No solo any time a day with just minor tweaks).
You can't cover everything anyway, and every class can shine solo and be sturdy.

Two:
Leader + defender-ish Striker / striker-ish Defender (slightly towards the latter)
I won't leave home if any way possible without one full Leader in the group. A Hybrid hardly cuts it, and two Hybrids are OK but even that sometimes brings issues (although double Human Lock|Taclord sounds fun). Here you want to be sturdy and do damage - and with the Leader an offensive Defender is often just as great as any Striker here.
The only concede I'd make here becoming good enough at range. So L + rS / C works as well, although I still tend towards L + dS/sD.

Three:
Leader ! Even one and a Hybrid, because you really want to have a better option here to recover your downed Leader than an administered healing potion (even if it's just a daily MC heal).
LSD works well and is probably the default choices, but I ran good groups as LSC and LDC as well:
-- LSC: PHB2 pre DP / PrP (!), Retvenger PMC Swordmage, Predator Druid and my Stalker Shaman - pretty much was a breeze, as we were pretty flexible between melee and range, plenty of lockdown, and what the Av lacked at offense, he made up with lockdown and me and the Druid striking.
-- LDC: L12 Iron Curtain + Toppling Giants (Battlefront Leader) + Malediction Invoker (fear abuse) - easily rocked the extra long Delve, and we brought more than enough nova to run well.

Four+:
Leader ! plus recovery option
Beyond that pretty much what you like, as long as it isn't just Shieldmages, Healics and Assassins...
At this size Roles also can be torn down some more, like using a dedicated Sorc/Wiz/...-Blaster with the right support.


@ akschmid:
In fact seeing two good AOE Controllers work together is scary to behold. One rounds them up, one nukes them - and between that the stack enough debuffs on the pack that they will hardly get a shot.

@ CausalO:
Nah, not really. There's some pretty rad builds out there, but guides like these pretty much target the casual reader - take him by the hand, discuss things. As long as you avoid stupidities this is cruise control to success.
And most CharOp dedicates have their precious own slant of perfect OP anyway...

@ Jandor / Seif:
The "problem" with Control is that it's the least protected. But dedicated Controllers still rock that house so much more.
Oh, and that Red Dragon is still paste against a good group. Either he's perma suffering 8+ attack penalty, or being chain stunned / dazed / dominated / banished / ... still gets the job done easily, not even speaking about shutting down all his extra stuff.

@ RR:
This pretty much sums things for the other thread as well. Good advise and connections there, and good way to lead folks through the though process, but likely a bit more flexibility in outcome (and maybe a slightly higher separation between primary and secondary combat roles and none-combat stuff).
Oh, and that Red Dragon is still paste against a good group. Either he's perma suffering 8+ attack penalty, or being chain stunned / dazed / dominated / banished / ... still gets the job done easily, not even speaking about shutting down all his extra stuff.



This point is actually what unites the guys I listed in spot number four - those classes have disproportiante access to effects that shut down bad guys in "alternative" ways.

Just to be clear, I don't have anything against full controllers, and if your first 4 team members are dense enough I can get behind one as a 5th, and if your'e up to 6 or 7 I definitely think having minion-clearing reliably is a major priority.  I just think its not the "does the party have a controller" that matters so much as it is "does the party have access to control," and the controller suffers from this distinction a lot more than any other role does.

My opinion

Repeated rol: Leader. With two leaders and Mark of Healing for both of them your party almost never will be hampered by failed saving throws.

Expendable rol: Defender but you need alternative strategies to stop enemies (for example a Shaman with world speaker command)
For a 5 person party, I'm squarely in the "Striker, Defender, Controller, and 2 Leaders" camp.

The reasoning is very, very simple:

If you have 2 Leaders in a party of 5, you have to REALLY do something wrong to TPK. This is true for any 2 Leaders. If you're actually using complimentary Leaders (Taclord + Pacifist Healer, anyone?), things just get ridiculous.
For a 5 person party, I'm squarely in the "Striker, Defender, Controller, and 2 Leaders" camp.



It's nice to know that we agree on something. Because, um, the Blazers?

THUNDERRRRRRRRRRRR!

OKC. What they lack in shame, they make up in pride! ;)
For a 5 person party, I'm squarely in the "Striker, Defender, Controller, and 2 Leaders" camp.



It's nice to know that we agree on something. Because, um, the Blazers?

THUNDERRRRRRRRRRRR!

OKC. What they lack in shame, they make up in pride! ;)



hahaha the 'JailBlazer' era has been over for awhile, my friend! We actually have a team to be proud of now!

If we can stay healthy, we can make some noise. Of course, that's been a REALLY big 'if' the last few years...

/cry
If we can stay healthy, we can make some noise. Of course, that's been a REALLY big 'if' the last few years...

/cry

No kidding. The Northwest states. Where basketball fans go to have their still beating hearts torn out ...

/Oden'd

It could be worse, gents. I had Isiah Thomas as my GM for a while. I still have nightmares over that.
It could be worse, gents. I had Isiah Thomas as my GM for a while. I still have nightmares over that.



I'm not even a Knicks fan (good luck today, btw... MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!), and I have nightmares about that!
The thing is.. rolls become irrelevent.. I know of several parties that do work very well while ignoring roles. 

A 5-man team with multiple controllers? Massive lock-down potential.

I know of a 6-man party that had 4 leaders A defender and a striker.. the four leaders were all things like cunning bards and a couple lazy-lords, Massive potential to slide allies and enemies alike while dealing out deadly MBAs on a continous basis.
I don't think considering roles is all that useful, either.   The only thing that I would vary with group size is power selection; and class selection insofar as it affects power selection.

Single target damage and healing is better in small groups, but in large groups, multi-target damage (and healing) is much, much, better, for the very logical reason that most of the time you'll be fighting monsters and healing characters that individually have the same hit points in both groups; if you fight two monsters, it's often hard to multi-target, but if you fight seven, it's usually pretty easy.   In the same vein, if you do 25% damage to three monsters, but you're the only one dealing damage to two of those, while two of your colleagues deal 50% damage to the other one, you're ineffective; but if four of you are dealing 25% damage to 3 monsters, you're efficient. 

So, although I think wizards and sorcerers are absolutely the most powerful classes in seven man groups -- and if you dispute it, I suspect you've never played in one -- I would much rather play a seeker if I were solo, as I'm going to spend a lot of time targetting one enemy.   Swordmages are incredible in small groups, but my experience watching one try to stay relevant as a defender in a six-eight person group convinced me that single-target defending is seldom good in groups that big , and he was mostly useful because Swordburst is a very good power.

If you know that you're not going to get any healing, nearly all classes can compensate to some degree, so you can get by without leaders -- as long as you know that's what you're going to have to do. 

Nearly all builds can be made with some control, so you can get by without controllers -- as long as you know that's what you're going to have to do.

The defender function is hard to duplicate exactly, but careful group rotation and positioning, as well as just having more healing, can leave you functioning very well.

And doing damage, well, if you know that you're going to have to do more damage, every class can be made to prioritize this, so you can make a great group without any strikers -- as long as you know that's what you're up against. 

So my basic guideline would be this:  play what you want, but don't play the bad builds; whatever you consider those to be, you're probably right as far as your play of them is concerned.   In big groups, take every multi-attack and movement power you can; in small groups, focus on single-target attacks.  In medium groups (four-five players), take as much of a mix as you can.

It may take a few levels for a group that departs greatly from the traditional balance to adjust power and feat selection into a working whole.  But it'll happen.  
Backing up on a secondary leader, especially if one or both is capable of granting attacks, is pretty good for party-effectiveness purposes, but I'd be wary about how long that's gonna make combats go. In my observations, doubling up on anything except striker tends to result in less-than-fun at-will slogfests for the tail end of many combats. (as an admittance, my experience is limited and I've almost never played with more than 5 people in the group.)

The granted attacks might be pretty strong, but are they competitive with the at-wills-and-more from a second striker? I'd be especially wary about bringing a Pacifist Healer in on this; effective at what they do or not, I think they contribute to slow combats more than any other build.

I would say any non-striker role you're doubling up on ought to have at least one of them 'minor' in striker.
The world is a mess, I just need to... rule it.
I don't think considering roles is all that useful, either.   The only thing that I would vary with group size is power selection; and class selection insofar as it affects power selection.

This point has come up repeatedly, but I'm wary of endorsing it. Given that all builds are feat starved these days, specialization maybe is even more important than it used to be, except for in tiny parties of one or two. For instance, being a controller isn't just about AoEs. It's about optimized initiative almost as much. Strikers need so many feats that a party with high DPR across the board is pretty much completely committed to those feats, en masse.

As in trading basketball players, quite often four quarters does NOT equal a dollar.

So, although I think wizards and sorcerers are absolutely the most powerful classes in seven man groups -- and if you dispute it, I suspect you've never played in one -- I would much rather play a seeker if I were solo, as I'm going to spend a lot of time targetting one enemy.   Swordmages are incredible in small groups, but my experience watching one try to stay relevant as a defender in a six-eight person group convinced me that single-target defending is seldom good in groups that big , and he was mostly useful because Swordburst is a very good power.

Those are very interesting observations, thank you.
The granted attacks might be pretty strong, but are they competitive with the at-wills-and-more from a second striker? I'd be especially wary about bringing a Pacifist Healer in on this; effective at what they do or not, I think they contribute to slow combats more than any other build.

The thing is, many of the top striker builds currently are built around their MBAs (Avenger, Slayer, Thief, etc). Certainly, all of those builds have encounter and/or daily powers that build on that baseline, but usually not by a large margin, while leaders often have really solid encounter/daily powers.

So, it's fair to pose the opposite question: How can an MBA-granting leader not be more effective than the MBA-based striker that he's backing, much less the additional striker that's supposed to replace him?

Admittedly, there are many leader classes that bring nothing but grind to the table. I'm no fan of Pacifist Clerics, myself.
It's just not true that Roles don't matter - on the contrary. As RR already said, these days we make  so effective builds that any none-Role trying to be good in a Role needs to go at least an extra mile to make up that headstart. While it's possible for some (most notable Defenders also becoming Strikers or Controllers), that's not the rule.
And claiming you can ignore Roles is plain wrong. Of course can build everybody to be resilient and able to use his SW well - but once your DM takes the kid gloves off, you'll see that skipping a Leader, even if we just talk about the healing aspect, still makes stuff much harder than it would be with a competent Leader. And being CharOp we liberally follow Queen - we don't talk about crutches, we talk about champions.

And speaking of Leaders - a well constructed Leader should never bring grind. An at-will attack granter is helpful there, but about any offensive at-will does the job well, and every Leader has one.
The point about Pacifist Clerics is btw, that you don't bring them to turn every combat into a slugfest. You bring them as backup, to make your redicolous offensive group survive some retaliation, paired with the fact that at the start of the combat they make a decent substitute Controller and good debuffer to setup a nova.

And Blasters (btw: not every Wiz and the like is a Blaster) being the best characters in large groups is also wrong.
First unless you still fight battles with 15-20 creatures in ye ol' 5x5sq dungeon cellar, things tend to spread out. So the point is more if you built a group combo to make the Blaster tactic possible - and you can do that in very small groups as well.
On the other hand Blasters fail spectecularly if the cornerstone of the enemy strategy is an Elite or two. Now you're suddenly very happy that you still brought an Avenger and a Rogue, who can gang up on that thing and send it straightt into oblivion.
I don't think the point of some posters is that roles don't matter, but rather that for the purpose of optimization a party "leader" and "controller" are both too vague.  Without going into this topic too much, I think its at least worthwhile to split each: "healer," "offense booster," "single-target lockdown," and "area denial / minion clearing."  This gives you an absolutely necessary level of precision when figuring out how, for example, White Mages and Warlocks fit into a party - they have in common single-target lockdown effects that would make the inclusion of, say, a Swordmage or certain Psion builds redundant, despite all four of those classes having different "roles."

Therefore, going back to the original topic of "which role when," you need to understand this original question in the context of roles that aren't exactly WotC's four, otherwise you'll build a silly party like Swordmage / White Mage / Warlock, and wonder why you never kill anything despite following the "LSD" rule.
You know, there's no cure against stupidity - so let's leave that out.

And SM / WM / WL might not kill stuff fast - but believe me, those folks will be so durable and hard to bring down that they'd be just as much a viable party.

And SM (area / minion) / WM (healer) / WL (lockdown) / Rune Priest (offensive booster) btw fit your distinction just as well, so that's not a good argument.
And SM (area / minion) / WM (healer) / WL (lockdown) / Rune Priest (offensive booster) btw fit your distinction just as well, so that's not a good argument.



Actually, I think this will show my argument rather than dismiss it.  The thread is about which role when.  If SM / RP / WL is going to handle a 4-5 encounter workday better than SM / WM / WL, and I think that's a reasonable argument, that goes to show that there must be some atomic element RP has that WM doesn't have that needs to be a part of the discussion.  Even though taking those roles in different orders arrives at the same 4-man party, they beget different ideal 3-man parties.

A similar distinction gets made in that we want our first striker to have a burst damage button and / or recieve basic attacks well, while the second striker we get has the freedom to develop a secondary role more strongly.
See, that's why I picked a Rune Priest. He's the worst straight healer of all Leaders. He's decent at preventing damage to make up for it, but that synergises little with an offensive approach to combat. (The strength of the RP is that he can switch between those things quite well on a moment's notice.)
And from a pure quality point of view I wouldn't say that either of those 3-mans is significantly better or worse than another. They have different approaches to combat, and you might find one more fun that the other, but that's not the point of the discussion. The point is rather that both of these groups are much more viable than say Leader / Controller / Controller - which indicentially also would fit into your categories.

And speaking of the Warlock... He is for a reason considered to be one of the more problematic Strikers, because he lacks that nova button, which is considered a defining feature of Strikers here. So when folks talk about Strikers, they don't mean Assassin either - but that's a problem of the class, not the recommended party composition.
And a Warlock is not considered a failed class (compared to the A), because he brings enough lockdown to his focus fire target to make up for the lack of nova. And he still has a significantly better damage output than the very most non-Strikers.

The last point where your distinction is problematic is that classes are seperated into Roles, not into your definitions. Somebody with little experience reading this thread will have hard time figuring out what classes to take - compared to the much better results of using the still relatively viable Role distinctions to give him a good idea to start with. And somebody with experience, who might figure out your distinctions better, will just as well know the limitations of a LSD group and finetune accordingly.
Oh!  I think I see where you misread me.  I never said those four things I proposed should be taken as the new set of roles, just that "leader" and "controller" should be more finely defined.  Certainly defenders and strikers have their place next to the four things I was talking about.

Likewise, I bring up the warlock as my example precisely because, as you say, he doesn't fill the "striker" slot the way we imply it.  But making it apparent that what we mean by the "S" in "LSD" is not exactly the same as what WotC calls the striker is exactly my point.
Very well !

But what does your distinction bring, that is not already contained on those Roles ?

Leader:
All can heal at somewhat - even the RP still activates at least 2 surges / enc as minor. And you have to try hard to not bring at least some offensive boost as Leader - even the WM has numerous effects that increase give bonus to hit / damage or penalises defense / creates vul.

Controller:
Except for a few Blasters, who are built away from the typical Controller with much effort, all Controllers bring enough debuffs to be capable of single target lockdown - in fact it's a common strategy for Controllers to select AOE powers with good debuffs, that work against three regulars just as well as a Solo. And except the misbegotten Seeker all Controllers have plenty of AOEs and again must take deliberate efforts to literrally miss all of them.

I much rather see your argument as "don't build bad characters or pure one-trick ponies". But looking at both handbooks and state of the art builds here in CharOp, I don't think anybody ever proposed such Leaders or Controllers.
I think the easiest way to restate my position is just to say that, after LSD, I think any of 1) white mage, 2) warlock, 3) wizard, 4) Champion of Order is the "right" way to fill the 4th party slot, because I think "single target neutralization" captures the goal of that slot better than any of the roles.
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