Defender playing styles

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Hello everybody. Here with a rather nebulous request this time for the defender board. I wanted to ask about the play style of each of the game's defenders:

-The fighter
-the paladin
-the swordmage
-the warden
-and the battlemind

How do each of these classes play out when you play them? How do they differ in how they control the battlefield, and keep drawing enemies to them? How do the different mechanics lead each one to play differently?

I ask this, as I wish to take a stab at putting together a new type of defender. I have a vauge, basic idea in mind for the concept, but before I begin trying to hammer out mechanics, I need to deside on a playstyle for the class as a goal, and I do not want that playstyle to overlap with any classes that have come before.

So please, tell me all that you've observed as you've played defenders: how each class excels, and where they have weaknesses, the best and worst of your time in these roles.

Thank you for your time.
I am going to be horrible - evil and negative.

I recommend, before you go making up new classes, that you get more familiarity with the game - in other words, you shouldnt be making new classes if you have to ask your question !


Now with that out of the way:

Fighters are sticky - but have only a small area of control.  They're best at locking down one or 2 enemies, and making their lives miserable.  They've strong punishments.  Enemies that teleport are their bane.

Paladins are the best multi-punishers of the lot, but lack some of the sting that other defender punishments can bring.  They're best at pushing out some penalties and some punishments across several enemies.

Swordmage is the most different - not the least of which because how they play depends massively on what type of swordmage they are.  I'll only mention the shielding swordmage, as they're the 'best' defender of the swordmage types.  The shieldmage neuters one (or 2 at epic) enemies, and then avoids that enemy, going on to hassle a diffferent enemy elsewhere.  They work best when there is a tough striker who can engage the marked enemy, counting on the shielding to protect the striker, and the striker to keep the enemy from getting to the shieldmage.

Wardens are the toughest of the lot, but their punishments are relatively weak.  They focus more on defence by positioning themselves well, and by working up tricks and traps to control their marks - such as prone causing attacks, or just being sufficiently damaging that you cant ignore them.  A great survivor class, but needs a knowledgable player to get their defendering up to the fighter benchmark.

Battlemind is another somewhat variable approach.  They can be tough, or sticky, or what ever depending on their focus.  They have the potential for massive mark punishment when talking about a big enemy, but they've also got both range and use limitations on it.  To make up for that, they've also many reaction powers that can punish enemies, often without needing that enemy to be marked.  Versatile in how they defend, again, they need a knowledgable player to make sure they're actually defending their team, not just using cool tricks.


I would if I could. I have access to all the information, but between full-time work with illl-placed hours and the fact that no one in 3 cities wants to play 4e works against me. As for making the class itself, it's something I probably shouldn't even waste time on, and I doubt it will get anywhere, but the disappointment of Heroes of Shadow just makes me want to do something of my own. And I've been on and off the boards for a while, so even if I don't make something crazy good, with a little help, I should be able to make something interesting and fun.

My thoughts were for a more debilitating defender with a controllerish debuffing theme. I knew about the swordmage's mark and run strategy, but everything else is good information, and I thank you for it.

Looking at the classes, would you say there is a gap in the defenders? For example, against many enemies, single enemies, artillery, leaders, ect? (just examples).
The gap as I see it is a blurring into the leader role perhaps - but one that a friend of mine had decided to make as the theme for his own home brew class.

Basically - a Defender that works more by targeting an ally to protect, rather than by targeting an enemy to protect from.  Now many leaders provide defence buffs, but as a defender, you'd also expect a 'punishment' as well as just the defence benefit.

So you've basically got a 'bodyguard' type approach.  You dont mark one enemy and protect your team from him, you mark one ally, and protect him from all enemies (well - given the limit of one interrupt per turn).

What makes a defender a defender is basically two things - making it harder for an enemy to hurt your allies (this is something that leaders also do, but leaders will be 'general' with their protection, defenders will have a more limited focus) and punishing enemies that do go after your allies (some other classes can do this on a very limited basis, but a Defender can do this every round)

In general, a Defender, because of what they do, will be the focus of enemy action, so as a side effect, defenders also tend to be tough (or if they can 'hide' while still doing their job, ala swordmage, not quite as tough) but being tough does not a defender make, nor is it something that non-defenders may not do.  Toughness is merely supportive of expected gameplay style - IE up and with the baddies.


Another 'gap' as other people see it is a 'controllerish' martial class.  I don't really see it myself, but it might be another way to approach things - a class that slows enemies that are adjacent to it, or other shinanigans - but I'd be vareful here - there are way too many feats out there that can have unexpectedly powerful interactions with control effects.
Allow me to rephrase before I head off to bed: by gap, I meant, is there an enemy tactic that some form of defender can't cover against well? Though that bodyguard idea is interesting, though not what I'm aiming to create here.
None of the defenders are good against multi-attackers because mark punishment only applies if the defender is not included in the attack.  Enemies that use bursts/blasts or enemies that otherwise attack multiple targets at once can avoid mark punishment by attacking the defender and all of his allies with one attack.  It doesn't matter if a defender has the best mark punishment in the world, if the enemy can include the defender and his allies in a burst, then the mark punishment doesn't trigger and the defender abilities are useless against those types of attacks.  For example, my warden once gave an enemy -13 to attack my allies but the enemy included me and my allies in a huge burst power, so the attack penalty didn't apply.  There are things various defenders can use to mitigate some of that (such as positioning themselves so that they are not in burst/blast formation with their allies), but I think that's one of the biggest gaps the defenders have.  I'd be careful making a defender class to fill that gap as you don't want the defender to be too strong.  (No defender should be so powerful that his allies are basically immune to attacks regardless of what the enemy does.)  But that might be something interesting to play around with.

Lori Anderson

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@LittleLorika

 

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None of the defenders are good against multi-attackers because mark punishment only applies if the defender is not included in the attack.  Enemies that use bursts/blasts or enemies that otherwise attack multiple targets at once can avoid mark punishment by attacking the defender and all of his allies with one attack.  It doesn't matter if a defender has the best mark punishment in the world, if the enemy can include the defender and his allies in a burst, then the mark punishment doesn't trigger and the defender abilities are useless against those types of attacks.  For example, my warden once gave an enemy -13 to attack my allies but the enemy included me and my allies in a huge burst power, so the attack penalty didn't apply.  There are things various defenders can use to mitigate some of that (such as positioning themselves so that they are not in burst/blast formation with their allies), but I think that's one of the biggest gaps the defenders have.  I'd be careful making a defender class to fill that gap as you don't want the defender to be too strong.  (No defender should be so powerful that his allies are basically immune to attacks regardless of what the enemy does.)  But that might be something interesting to play around with.

Hmm... a new feat, maybe?  (Yeah, yeah, I know, feat proliferation.)

Alone in the Crowd
Prerequisite: Defender role
Effect: Once per day, when you and at least one ally are a target of a burst or blast attack from an enemy marked by you, you may use powers and abilities as if you were not a target of the attack.
At 11th level, you may use this ability once per encounter.
At 21st level, you may use this ability once per encounter, and the enemy takes a penalty to its attack rolls against your allies as if you were not a target of the attack.

Thoughts?
loose [loos] vt. to let loose; to release; to unfasten, undo or untie; to shoot or discharge. lose [looz] vt. to come to be without (something in one's possession or care), through accident, theft, etc., so that there is little or no prospect of recovery; to fail inadvertently to retain (something) in such a way that it cannot be immediately recovered; to suffer the deprivation of. LEARN THE DAMN DIFFERENCE. The pen is mightier than the character builder. Copy this to your sig if you like 4e but don't use the CB. "OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E." -RedSiegfried
Fighter--most damaging non-Striker class, lots of options, aggressive Defender who is slightly fragile

Paladin--has the most varied bag of tricks, best non-Leader healer in the game, second best damage dealing Defender(Str/Wis), only Defender able to punish multiple enemies at range, and a lot of varied and interesting effects

Swordmage--non-Shielding Swordmages suck, but unique in the Defender role in its ability to run away from marked enemies and triggering your mark(Shielding) rendering enemies ineffective, tends to have overkill AC seemingly by accident starting in Paragon tier.

Warden--Big, beefy and takes up a lot of space, having a saving throw at the start of your turn is money

Battlemind--The Defender of choice for people who want complexity and lots of buttons to press and a magnificent pure Defender, but has a harder time fulfilling a secondary role(Striker, Leader, or Controller) than other Defender classes and possibly the worst Defender at keeping more than 2 enemies marked.

Knight--Possesses the absolute scariest "mark" in the game with its Defender Aura, which can do unique things like "mark" enemies that your allies push/pull/slide into it and automatically "marks" enemies that enter it, can use Melee Basic Attack optimization to do surprisingly high damage and make its "mark" even scarier, and has some interesting strange synergies with things like Kulkor Arms Master, Eldtritch Strike + White Lotus Riposte, and such.

Cavalier--I have the least experience with the Cavalier, and kind of find it overshadowed by the Paladin and Knight classes.
...whatever
Fighter--most damaging non-Striker class, lots of options, aggressive Defender who is slightly fragile



I was not aware Fighters were slightly fragile. 


Swordmage--non-Shielding Swordmages suck, but unique in the Defender role in its ability to run away from marked enemies and triggering your mark(Shielding) rendering enemies ineffective, tends to have overkill AC seemingly by accident starting in Paragon tier.



Overkill AC actually works very well for the mark-and-forget style they use. Most defenders want to be hard to hit, but not so hard that the marked target always goes after your allies. Swordmages, on the other hand, don't normally want to get attacked by their marked target(s) at all, so they should be marking on creature, then leaving to go tank the rest of the encounter, which requires a ridiculously high AC.


Cavalier--I have the least experience with the Cavalier, and kind of find it overshadowed by the Paladin and Knight classes.


 
It's terrible. Paladins already have the least threatening mark out of the gate, and the cavalier has a worse version of that with zero support. Fine tank, maybe a solid defender in an undead themed campaign, but for most situations it really isn't worth a damn. 


OP;
House Rules and Homebrews will be your best bet for making a new defender type. Just know that pretty much everything is covered- high damage, incredible toughness, unhittable defenses, ranged defending, teleporting nonsense, multimarking, super lock down etc... 
There is a controllerish debuffing defender (actually, the defender role is very close to the controller role to begin with), and it is the Brawler Fighter. Warlock|Paladins also make fantastic debuffers.
Areas the current defenders don't cover? A dedicated, purpose made, ranged defender. Swordmages and various hybrids make very good defenders without being adjacent to the marked targets, but none of the defender classes are strictly ranged.  

Co-author on AoA 2-3 and 4-1.

Fighter--most damaging non-Striker class, lots of options, aggressive Defender who is slightly fragile



I was not aware Fighters were slightly fragile.



They actually kinda are, compared to the other Defenders, though its a small difference.

Paladins start with 10 surges and Plate, can heal themselves with Lay on Hands(if they take it) and have a minor action save granting power as a class feature.

Swordmages have Con secondary(Shielding Swordmages are the only Swordmage that matters) and have really good AC scaling by default, and never discount how much mobility adds to survivability.

Wardens have 7hp/level and get a save at the start of every round, and get candy for using Second Wind

Battleminds are Con primary, and have almost no reason not to use a heavy shield

Knight starts with Plate, has almost no reason not to use a heavy shield, and is Con secondary

Cavalier starts with Plate and 10 surges, and has little reason not to use a heavy shield



...whatever
It just depends really. A fighter in scale with a two-handed weapon pumping wisdom will be relatively fragile compared to more defense-oriented defenders.

But other fighters are tougher.

Below opinions reflect standard defender builds (ie 1h/shield, focused on punishment and survivability)    




Fighter-
-Can achieve high damage output for a defender, and more importantly has the best tools to lock down 1 target with it's mark. Movement canceling is a bread and butter punishment for not doing what you want the monster to do. If you very offensive minded defenders this is a good one.


Paladin--Most versatile defender hands down. Paladin's can range from high damage, mass punishing at range (through sanctions), secondary leader and to just a beast defensively. 

Swordmage-- The anti defender as I call it. More fragile (till at least paragon) and it's mark works best if your no where near monster. I believe it takes the most skill to play a swordmage effectively as it plays more as a finesse char then a wall or beatstick type.

Warden-- What you lack in punishment out of the gate you make up for in sheer ability to survive. Warden's are the quintessential brute and as they level their stickiness becomes very good. Their dallies flat out rock. 

Battlemind-- If you can fully understand their mechanics the battlemind is a very solid, very versatile defender. I think it lacks somewhat in damage unless you are setting out to abuse certain powers. Has some of the best reactions as a defender however.

Knight-- Has the pimp aura, and amazing punishment. Can continually knock things prone/slow/immob. Only thing the knight lacks really is versatility as it's encounter is rather vanilla and gains no dallies. Still can be the scariest defender for a DM. 

Cavalier-- Also has the amazing aura, but weak punishment. It is more than made up for by having an amazing encounter power (smite), another amazing encounter power resolute shield, and a friggin mount. With the ability to use sanctions to mass mark and enforce punishment at range, I think the Cavalier shines in almost all areas. 



This is in no way a ranking system. One thing to note is that some classes have builds that allow them to do things slightly differently.

Fighter - Take any two defenders, add up the number of powers and options they have and Fighter will always come out on top. Want a control oriented Fighter? Go with Sword & Board (Weapon Talent), Grappling, or Pole-arm Fighter. Want a defensive juggernaught? Once again take a look at S&B and Battlerager. Want a mobile defender? Tempest or Charger (usually Weapon talent) Fighters are the way to go. There's almost no niche a Fighter can't fill. Trouble spots tend to be Flying and Teleporting enemies (late Paragon into epic) and enemies who use bursts and blasts.
Secondary: Striker, Controller

Paladin - Multi-marking and punishment tend to be their strong suit. Their punishment isn't that strong however unless you find ways to exploit Radiant vulnerability. 
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They have a strong leader secondary so being able to spot heal in a party with a subpar leader is helpful.They also tend to be very tough, from extra surges to the best armor proficiencies. The Paladin also offers short ranged attacks.
Secondary: Leader, Controller

Swordmage - Shielding Swordmage is the best of the three options, although the other two are workable in the right party. Also the least supported of all defenders but they have a strong core set of powers and paragon paths. Range is rarely an issue as their mark works within 10 and the mark itself can be expanded in its range. Shielding punishment is actually a damage prevention (NOTE: Due to new monster expressions they no longer completely negate attacks). Mobile enemies aren't much of a bother for Swordmages. Swordmages with the Sigil Carver Paragon Path are the only defenders I know of who are capable of punishing enemies who use bursts and blasts.
Secondary: Controller, Leader, Striker (Assault)

Warden - Like Zone defense? Then the Warden is your guy. Like the Fighter they tend to be walking walls. Punishment is limited. The Life Warden build also takes a page from the Paladin school of defense by buffing allies. In general also very tough, especially CON secondary builds. They do tend to suffer from low NAD's. Like Fighters their ranged defense is limited.
Secondary: Controller, Striker (Wild), Leader (Life)

Battlemind - Do you ever wish you could combine the Fighter's toughness with the Swordmage's mobility? Then look at the Battlemind. At level 7 they gain their real punishment ability in Lightning rush. They have a strong mark but good luck getting it to trigger. Their powers are limited, so you'll be stuck using the same 2-3 powers and just augmenting them as needed. It's easy to build them as 1 trick ponies but they do well at that one trick.
Secondary: Striker, Controller