Critters R Us: A Sentinel Druid Handbook

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Critters R Us
A Sentinel Druid Handbook


Overview
Sentinels are leaders that rely heavily on their animal companion, exceeding long buffs, and, frequently, a ton of summoned animals.   

So Why Play a Sentinel?

Here are some strengths of the Sentinel

Sentinels are critter masters - Like druids from previous editions, sentinels can have a ton of creatures on the board at the same time.   

Sentinels are relatively easy to build - Like many Essentials classes, sentinels are pretty easy to build.

Sentinels make leading look easy - Sentinels get a lot of auras, including one from their animal companion.  These auras naturally help guide your party to success, as your party mates will naturally move to take advantage of the auras.  For example, I've seen completely new players decide that they wanted to focus fire on a sentinel's desired target, not because they understood that focusing fire was beneficial, but because they wanted the CA from the wolf aura.  

Sentinels are hard to keep down - You are tough as nails from your great constitution and are, I believe, the only class that can still do things (via the animal companion) when sleeping, stunned, or even while you're unconscious or dead. 

Sentinels can help cover all roles - Sentinels are leaders built on a controller chassis, and have a solid dose of striker and defender  thrown in for flavor.


Weaknesses of the Sentinel
Sentinels also have some weaknesses

Sentinels don't get leader encounter powers -  Sentinel encounter powers are striker powers 



The guide will use the following rating system
Gold - A must have.  You're literally hurting your character if you don't take this
Sky blue - "Very Strong" - An exceptionally strong choice. 
Blue - "Strong"- A solid choice but nothing awe-inspiring. 
Black - "Average" -This is generally a fairly mediocre choice, or an otherwise good power with a noticable drawback.  Optimizers will try to avoid these, but in most games you won't notice a discrepancy in power level if you go with a few of these. 
Purple - "Weak" This option is weak, underpowered, or very situational.  These choices won't show up in most optimized builds.  
Red - "Very Weak" - Either totally overshadowed by another option, or just completely bad.  These kinds of choices are generally avoided.

The guide covers the following sources
AP - Arcane Power
AV - Adventurer's Vault
AV2 - Adventurer's Vault 2
D XXX - Dragon Magazine, issue XXX
DMA 2009 - Dragon Magazine Annual 2009
DP - Divine Power
FRPG - Forgotten Realms Player's Guide\
HFL- Hereos of the Fallen Lands
MM - Monster Manual
MM2 - Monster Manual 2
MOTP - Manual of the Planes
MP - Martial Power
MP2 - Martial Power 2
PHB - Player's Handbook
PHB2 - Player's Handbook 2
PHB3 - Player's Handbook 3
PHR: DB - Player's Handbook Races: Dragonborn
PHR: TF - Player's Handbook Races: Tieflings
PHH1 - Player's Handbook Heroes: Series 1
PHH2 - Player's Handbook Heroes: Series 2
PP - Primal Power
PsiP - Psionic Power




Party Role
Sentinels are leaders built on a controller chassis, with an additional touch of striker and defender.  Sentinels are one of the few classes in which all builds have clear leanings toward all roles.   


Leader -  Sentinels get standard healing capabilities, extremely long buffs, and party enabling auras.  This makes them effective primary leaders. 
Controller - Sentinels naturally control a lot of terrain due to their animal companion.  They also have access to normal druid at-wills and dailies, which gives sentinels a lot more control than normal leaders.  Although sentinels lack contoller encounter powers, sentinels can serve as a primary controller if desired. 
Defender - Sentinels, especially dwarven sentinels with bear companions, make solid off-tanks. All sentinels should have very good constitutions and a ton of surges (10-11 at level 1).  The animal companion, in my experience, tends to draw a reasonable amount of attacks, as it looks and acts like a normal animal (unlike a shaman spirit for example).  This means that a sentinel is spending their surges (to heal or resummon the animal companion) to save the party from doing it.  However, sentinels aren't terribly sticky, and lack the punishment of a real defender. 
Striker - All sentinels are stuck with multiple multi-attacking encounter powers, which are clearly striker powers.  A sentinel currently also has a choice between higher accuracy (Spring) and higher damage (Summer).  Both of these choices also lead to relatively decent damage.  A summoning sentinel will also have respectable personal damage. 

Baseline Mechanics
HP and Surges  - As sentinels have consitution as a secondary ability, they are tough and have a lot of surges (10-11 at level 1). 
Proficiencies - Hide armor, light shields, and some decent weapons and implements.  
AC - Constitution to AC, and a light shield will give you an 17 or 18 starting AC, which is good for a leader. 
NAD Defenses
- You get a +2 to fortitude, and constitution and wisdom, means that you will have a good will and fortitude defense.  These are the two most important NADs.  Shields also give reflex a small boost, which help shore up a sentinel's weak spot a small bit.   

Class Features

Acolyte of the Natural Cycle
- This is probably the most important distinction in sentinels.  Basically, you pick a season to draw your strength from, and this determines your animal companion along with some additional benefits
[sblock = Spring] Spring is the more offensive option.  Spring grants you a wolf companion, a +1 to hit with scimitars, spears, and daggers, and a small heal bonus.  The Alsfair Spear also is usable as an implement, so the +1 to hit can be applied to both weapon and implement attacks. 

The wolf is fast, and has a better AC than the bear.  The wolf has an aura that makes any enemy adjacent to it grant combat advatage to the whole party, regardless of whether the party member is melee or ranged.  This makes you, and the rest of your party exceedingly accurate, which means your party will do significantly higher damage per round if you choose the wolf.  The wolf aura also strongly encourages the party to focus fire on whatever the wolf is adjacent to, so it makes combat more efficient without requiring the party to make a conscious plan.   Also, if you have a rogue in the party, your animal companion gets a lackey;)[/sblock]

[sblock = Summer] Summer is the more defensive option.  This grants you a bear companion, a damage boost with weapon attacks using a mace or staff, and a small bonus to athletics.  Many sentinels of summer will use the staff, so they can easily use implement and weapon attacks, and also gain reach 1 from the Staff Expertise feat.  This allows the sentinel of summer to attack from behind the bear

The bear has normal speed, and a lower AC than the wolf.  The bear has an aura that increases all the defenses of adjacent allies by 2.  This makes the bear a particularly tempting target, and great to place next to the party defender.  However, this forces party members to choose between flanking with the bear, and getting a defense bonus.     

 


[/sblock]

Ability Scores
Wisdom and constitution are your two primary abilities.  You get a lot of use out of both

Strength
- Although you like to play with beasts, being beastly doesn't give you a lot of benefits.  However, you could use a melee basic attack, a better shield, and multi-classing into strength based classes such as fighter. (Recommended: 10-13)


Constitution - This controls your HP, your surges, your AC, your animal companion's damage, your animal companion's HP, and some druid rider effects.  (I strongly recommend a 16 before racials, but anything 14 or higher before racials also is workable)


Dexterity - This controls your iniative, your reflex defense, and a few skills.  (Recommended: 10-13 before racials)


Intelligence - You don't have ritual casting, so this is a potential dump stat. (Recommended: 8-12 before racials)


Wisdom - This is the a sentinel's primary ability, and controls your attack bonus (but not your animal companion's), your damage, your animal companion's damage, and some important skills.  As sentinels get so much out of constitution I don't recommend going all out and getting a preracial 18 in wisdom.  However, a preracial 18 is always an option.  (Recommended: 16 before racials, but anything higher is also workable)


Charisma - Unless you want to be a party face, this is a potential dump stat (Recommended: 8-10)



Alien290 has another guide devoted to druids of all kinds, including the sentinel.  I am abandonning this guide, as I don't think we really need two guides and he is farther along. 

So please do not expect updates on this thread.

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Ok, I think I've reserved enough.  Please feel free to post away.

Looking forward to it.   The sentinel seems like an extremely flexible class and it'd be cool to see some perspective on different builds.
Sheesh, the book's not even officially out yet and you're already starting a guide!  I feel like this is just going to make me more impatient as I wait for my copy.

Anyways, I'm definitely looking forward to this class more than any of the other E-classes (big surprise there, if you're familiar with my posting history Tongue out).  Can't wait to see your take on it! 

EDIT:  I'll also be interested to see your opinion of the Wolf vs Bear companion (and as much as I like them both, I'll be anticipating Dragon articles detailing Autumn and Winter Sentinals). 
I too am waiting to see how well the Sentinel is able to cover multiple rolls. Wonder what bonuses they will give the other two builds.
I'll be honest, I'm not really seeing Sentinel druids as being "blue" (strong) Defenders.  I get what you're saying about them being non-traditional defenders (they're damage sponges), but they're not sticky, they have no punishment, and they (seem) to have low-to-regular defenses (and hence will be affected by statuses).  So I personally wouldn't consider them anywhere close to actual defenders, who would be blue to sky-blue.

For example a cleric can have a ton of surges, regular defenses, gives buffs, and gets attacked a lot (mine does anyways, lol!), but I don't consider him a Defender ;)

I also look forward to seeing their DPR at all levels, and hence being able to better judge their Striker potential.
I'll be honest, I'm not really seeing Sentinel druids as being "blue" (strong) Defenders.  I get what you're saying about them being non-traditional defenders (they're damage sponges), but they're not sticky, they have no punishment, and they (seem) to have low-to-regular defenses (and hence will be affected by statuses).  So I personally wouldn't consider them anywhere close to actual defenders, who would be blue to sky-blue.

For example a cleric can have a ton of surges, regular defenses, gives buffs, and gets attacked a lot (mine does anyways, lol!), but I don't consider him a Defender ;)

I also look forward to seeing their DPR at all levels, and hence being able to better judge their Striker potential.



Yeah, I rewrote that section as I didn't rate that as clearly as I should of.  They are good off-tanks, as both they and their animals get attacked and they have very good surge economy. When the animal companion dies, they spend a surge, which they have a lot off, and it comes back as a minor action.  I've done this as many as 5 times in the same encounter...and no I didn't even come close to running out of surges. 

Sentinels are hard to stop by conditions.  For example, if you're immobilized, your animal companion probably isn't. If you're unconscious or stunned, your animal companion is still probably functional.   I've also had my wolf dazed, immobilized and with on-going damage at the same time, but my character was fine, so I just continued to attack as normal.   The same thing goes for most attack penalties. 

A sentinel with a con race will have a warden-level AC of 18 at level 1, and 11 surges. 

You are right though that they aren't sticky in the conventional sense, but they control so many squares of combat, that it's hard to get away from them using shift+charge without taking at least one OA.  Plus the rest of the party tends to stick close to your animal to to take advantage of the aura, so I haven't see much monster shifting to get the squishies with my sentinel. 

I've generally found that DMs find the auras to be annoying enough that they want to attack my Wolf animal companion, and I expect the Bear companion to potentially be an even more attractive target as it has an inverse defender aura that buffs the defenses of adjacent allies.   

  

Sentinels don't get a lot of awesome encounter changing powers - Sentinels funtion off a lot of relatively small constant benefits, and long lasting buffs.  As such, they have fewer uber, encounter- changing powers than other leaders.  However, because sentinels have so many constant benefits, parties need fewer encounter-changing powers than with other leaders. 



Now I know I haven't seen the book yet, but I'm going to have to disagree with this.  Well, perhaps it's true for the Sentinal as presented in HotFK, but luckily you can choose any previously published Druid dailies, and there are plenty of encounter-changing ones available.  IMO Druids and Invokers are pretty much tied for 2nd in having the best dailies (with Wizards obviously coming in 1st). 

Granted your encounter-changing powers will be controller powers, but then again Bards tend to be the same way.

EDIT:  That's a great point about Sentinals being naturally "resistent" to status effects given that you control 2 creatures.  It's an advantage that's tough to quantify, but potentially comparable to the Warden's Font of Life.  Of course the downside is that you can both get hit w/ an AoE for ongoing damage and end up taking "double," but the advantages far outweight this (situational) weakness.

I am curious though, how exactly does the action economy of the Animal Companion work?  Specifically, can you command it to move, etc. as a minor action (like a summon), or does it get to take a move action when you move (like a Shaman's spirit companion).  I'm assuming that it doesn't require a separate move action, as that would severely hamper its utility.
I am curious though, how exactly does the action economy of the Animal Companion work?  Specifically, can you command it to move, etc. as a minor action (like a summon), or does it get to take a move action when you move (like a Shaman's spirit companion).  I'm assuming that it doesn't require a separate move action, as that would severely hamper its utility.

When you move, it can move.  Or you can stay still, and use your move action to move it.

Everything else, including OAs, eats up your actions.  If you want it to attack, it eats up your Standard.  If you want it to use a minor action, it eats up your minor action.  Etc...

It can act independent of you, but only if you're unconscious or if you are more than 20 squares away from it.  When acting independently, it only gets one action: 1 standard -or- 1 minor -or- 1 move (though it can still take OAs and free actions, but no immediates).  And of course it still has an Int of 2, so your DM may restrict it to what would be reasonable actions.

If it reaches 0 hp, it goes away.  To summon it back requires a minor action and 1 surge, and then it has your surge worth of hp.  Or you can decide to summon it back outside of combat during a short rest, in which case it eats up one surge but comes back at full hp (which is your bloodied value).
Speaking of Animal Companion OA, I really doubt how effective it can be. That kind of damage without any nasty effects sometimes could be ignored if the monster would have a better chance of locking down those on the backline (to prevent more dangerous effects). Though for an off tank I guess it would be to ask for too much (yet again, I doubt if it's really blue compared to those who get a much better time off tanking). You are competing with a whole squad of other classes who could off tank very effectively after all (it might be good off tank but whether it's great is debatable).

As for NAD, that Reflex is born to be abysmal even with a light shield (especially when both hide and class add fort instead)...but I guess it's a general problem for most primals who depends on two attributes heavily (to the extend of crazy) and without any heavy armor.
It can act independent of you, but only if you're unconscious or if you are more than 20 squares away from it. 



The text says "In situations in where you can't give commands to your animal companion, it can act independently."  There is no text anywhere that restricts the animal companion to independent actions only if you're unconscious or more than 20 squares away from it. 



Sentinels don't get a lot of awesome encounter changing powers - Sentinels funtion off a lot of relatively small constant benefits, and long lasting buffs.  As such, they have fewer uber, encounter- changing powers than other leaders.  However, because sentinels have so many constant benefits, parties need fewer encounter-changing powers than with other leaders. 



Now I know I haven't seen the book yet, but I'm going to have to disagree with this.  Well, perhaps it's true for the Sentinal as presented in HotFK, but luckily you can choose any previously published Druid dailies, and there are plenty of encounter-changing ones available.  IMO Druids and Invokers are pretty much tied for 2nd in having the best dailies (with Wizards obviously coming in 1st). 

Granted your encounter-changing powers will be controller powers, but then again Bards tend to be the same way.



Yeah, I think I am focusing on sentinels too much as leaders.

Speaking of Animal Companion OA, I really doubt how effective it can be. That kind of damage without any nasty effects sometimes could be ignored if the monster would have a better chance of locking down those on the backline (to prevent more dangerous effects). Though for an off tank I guess it would be to ask for too much (yet again, I doubt if it's really blue compared to those who get a much better time off tanking). You are competing with a whole squad of other classes who could off tank very effectively after all (it might be good off tank but whether it's great is debatable).



A sentinel isn't terribly sticky.  However, most off-tanks aren't terribly sticky, as they typically lack marks and retaliation.  Instead, off tanks like the sentinel frequently give motivation to beat on them, and have the ability to take the hits.    For example, the bear aura gives a defense buff that is equivalent to a mark penalty, but it isn't a mark, so it stacks with all defender goodness your party may have.  The bear also has pathetic AC, which means it screams "beat on me." 

At level 1, an OA from a dwarf will probably do 12.5 (wolf) or 14.5 damage (bear) on a hit.  As you control two creatures, you have twice the opportunities for OAs as a normal character, with the exception that the same creature can't provoke twice in the same turn.  DMs are free to ignore this, but that damage will add up.  

A sentinel also simply occupies a lot of ground, which prevents the enemies from moving around you easily.  For example, my mounted dwarven sentinel/shaman occupies 6 squares without using any powers. 
 
sentinel/shaman? There are no hybrid rules for the new essentials classes yet, or are there? But if you could create a hybrid sentinal/beastmaster ranger with MC shaman, it would be even more fun. With a mount, you'd have 5 figures on the board, that should be hard to kill.

I am also very curious regarding the animal comp. auras. Depending on their effects, they could be very pwoerful.

Edit: Does someone have a link at hand, to the dragon with the sentinels preview?

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As for double the OA, does Sentinel have a decent MBA anyway?
The text says "In situations in where you can't give commands to your animal companion, it can act independently."  There is no text anywhere that restricts the animal companion to independent actions only if you're unconscious or more than 20 squares away from it.

I didn't make them up, honest ;)

I'll give you the page number when I get home tonight.

The text says "In situations in where you can't give commands to your animal companion, it can act independently."  There is no text anywhere that restricts the animal companion to independent actions only if you're unconscious or more than 20 squares away from it.

I didn't make them up, honest ;)

I'll give you the page number when I get home tonight.




The relevant text is from HotFK pgs. 90-91.

"In situations where you can't give commands to your animal companion, it can act independently. For example, if you are unconscious or if you are more than 20 squares away from your companion, it doesn't sit around waiting for you to show up (unless that's what you have previously commanded it to do). An animal companion acting independently can take either a standard, a move, or a minor action on its turn. It can also take opportunity actions and free actions, but it cannot immediate actions."
I thought this was going to be about a different type of crit
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
As for double the OA, does Sentinel have a decent MBA anyway?



No, it doesn't get a decent MBA from a class feature.

sentinel/shaman? There are no hybrid rules for the new essentials classes yet, or are there? But if you could create a hybrid sentinal/beastmaster ranger with MC shaman, it would be even more fun. With a mount, you'd have 5 figures on the board, that should be hard to kill.



Sentinel/shaman means sentinel MC shaman.  You can't hybrid essentials classes.

As for double the OA, does Sentinel have a decent MBA anyway?



No, it doesn't get a decent MBA from a class feature.



Hmm, so basically Melee Training will be necessary for you to really take advantage of threatening squares adjacent to 2 creatures.  By default, Sentinals are kinda like Shamans in that the companion is the one that threatens, whereas your main character can't really make meaningful OAs. 

So the question becomes, how much of a priority is Melee Training?  Obviously it's nifty to threaten with 2 creatures, but it's not quite as crucial a feat as it is for other melee classes that can't make good OAs at all (non-BS Rogues, non-SF Monks, etc.).  Instead of it being one of your first feats, maybe pick it up by mid to late Heroic?
No MBA...well, that explains a lot...
As for double the OA, does Sentinel have a decent MBA anyway?



No, it doesn't get a decent MBA from a class feature.



Hmm, so basically Melee Training will be necessary for you to really take advantage of threatening squares adjacent to 2 creatures.  By default, Sentinals are kinda like Shamans in that the companion is the one that threatens, whereas your main character can't really make meaningful OAs. 

So the question becomes, how much of a priority is Melee Training?  Obviously it's nifty to threaten with 2 creatures, but it's not quite as crucial a feat as it is for other melee classes that can't make good OAs at all (non-BS Rogues, non-SF Monks, etc.).  Instead of it being one of your first feats, maybe pick it up by mid to late Heroic?



I spoke incorrectly.  The animal attack is an MBA.  You yourself don't have an mba option unless you get mounted combat or melee training.   I'd go mounted combat before melee training personally, and use the mount's attack.  

One thing that I don't think can be seen by looking at them on paper is that you and the the party tends to follow the companion around to gain their aura benefit.  This makes creatures unlikely to move, as they will tend to face multiple oas.  

The final version of the sentinel has not been released yet, has it? Maybe one of the sentinel builds will be able to use wild shape, so all the beast form basic attacks were good options (like savage rend)?

I just hope that they will modify the beasts basic attack again (or provide a viable option as at-will power for the sentinel), because it's damage scales horribly. It does not take into account any bonus damage the sentinel might have (items, feats, etc.).

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The final version of the sentinel has not been released yet, has it? Maybe one of the sentinel builds will be able to use wild shape, so all the beast form basic attacks were good options (like savage rend)?

I just hope that they will modify the beasts basic attack again (or provide a viable option as at-will power for the sentinel), because it's damage scales horribly. It does not take into account any bonus damage the sentinel might have (items, feats, etc.).



People have had the book in hand for over a week now. There's only one build. That build gives you a choice of seasons to emulate, and the seasons are what chooses which animal you get.

No wild shape druids in HotFK.
Yes, I am a defender apologist. A Rock and a Hard Place: A Warden Handbook
I'm not sure how optimal it is, but I see no reason why you couldn't simply ride your animal companion, especially in the case of a Halfling Druid.  If, as you say, both Druid and Companion have auras (I haven't looked at the class yet), then their areas would neatly overlap.

The only real downside I can think of is that you could both end up in the same area attack, but if your pet is faster than you are (the wolf should be pretty quick), it becomes a tactic worth thinking about.
"You can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies." -The Doctor, Remembrance of the Daleks
Dwarf riding his bear companion?
Bear Calvary yeah we are so.....

Actually that could be pretty awesome, sadly the druid doesn't have an always on aura. Also with the sentinel being encouraged to be in melee if it did the aura's would probably overlap a bit anyway.
The final version of the sentinel has not been released yet, has it? Maybe one of the sentinel builds will be able to use wild shape, so all the beast form basic attacks were good options (like savage rend)?

I just hope that they will modify the beasts basic attack again (or provide a viable option as at-will power for the sentinel), because it's damage scales horribly. It does not take into account any bonus damage the sentinel might have (items, feats, etc.).



People have had the book in hand for over a week now. There's only one build. That build gives you a choice of seasons to emulate, and the seasons are what chooses which animal you get.

No wild shape druids in HotFK.


It's out already? Strange, amazon.com lists November 16, 2010 as official release date.

I always assumed they would add wild shape to the sentinel, because of the wild shape errata...

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