From The Labs XI: The Bladesinger's Band

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I. Intro and Cast of Characters

I've been involved in the ongoing conversation about the bladesinger lately, and I'm definitely a skeptic.  I haven't played one yet, but I don't see how their control can be particularly strong, and I don't think they stand out in the striker role, either. 

But I'm also certainly willing to give the bladesinger a fighting chance.  I think it will be interesting to test how it performs in play against level-appropriate foes, and to compare its performance with another couple of underrated classes: the hunter and the hexblade.  Rounding out the party will be a knight, which I've seen put out perfectly acceptable performance as a defender, and a warpriest for healing, buffing, and off-tank duties.

I'm happy with this set of classes, but races and builds are by no means set in stone.  In fact I'm soliciting advice and/or full builds from the community here; I don't claim to be an expert on every aspect of optimization, and I have no prior experience with optimizing Essentials-only builds (among other things, it looks to me like you run out of interesting feats to take by about the end of heroic).  The only requirement is that for this test, PCs should be 19th-level and Essentials-only--meaning material is restricted to Heroes of the Fallen Lands, Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms, the DM's Kit, and the Neverwinter Campaign Setting.

The current group is:


Eladrin Bladesinger (controller)
====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Aramil, level 19
Sun Elf (Eladrin), Wizard (Bladesinger), Sorcerous Sword

Blade Magic Option: Rapier
Sun Elf (+2 to Arcana)


FINAL ABILITY SCORES
STR 11, CON 14, DEX 21, INT 23, WIS 15, CHA 9


STARTING ABILITY SCORES
STR 10, CON 13, DEX 14, INT 16, WIS 14, CHA 8


AC: 34 Fort: 27 Ref: 31 Will: 31
HP: 126 Surges: 9 Surge Value: 33


TRAINED SKILLS


Arcana +25, Athletics +15, History +23, Nature +17, Perception +19


UNTRAINED SKILLS


Acrobatics +14, Bluff +8, Diplomacy +8, Dungeoneering +11, Endurance +11, Heal +11, Insight +13, Intimidate +8, Religion +15, Stealth +14, Streetwise +8, Thievery +14


POWERS
Basic Attack: Melee Basic Attack
Basic Attack: Ranged Basic Attack
Eladrin Racial Power: Fey Step
Wizard Utility: Suggestion
Wizard Utility: Ghost Sound
Wizard Utility: Prestidigitation
Wizard Utility: Bladesong
Wizard Attack: Dazzling Sunray
Wizard Attack: Unseen Hand
Wizard Attack: Shadow Sever
Wizard Attack 1: Chill Strike
Wizard Attack 1: Ray of Enfeeblement
Wizard Attack 1: Magic Missile
Wizard Utility 2: Shield
Wizard Utility 2: Expeditious Retreat
Wizard Attack 3: Color Spray
Wizard Attack 3: Blissful Ignorance
Wizard Utility 6: Dimension Door
Wizard Utility 6: Invisibility
Wizard Attack 7: Spectral Ram
Wizard Attack 7: Winter's Wrath
Wizard Attack 7: Lightning Bolt
Wizard Utility 10: Blur
Wizard Utility 10: Arcane Gate
Wizard Attack 13: Prismatic Burst
Wizard Attack 13: Hold Monster
Wizard Utility 16: Fly
Wizard Utility 16: Stoneskin
Wizard Attack 17: Mass Charm
Wizard Attack 17: Force Volley


FEATS
Level 1: Light Blade Expertise
Level 2: Weapon Focus (Light blade)
Level 4: Wand Expertise
Level 6: Improved Initiative
Level 8: Resilient Focus
Level 10: Improved Defenses
Level 11: Superior Will
Level 12: Toughness
Level 14: Implement Focus (Wand)
Level 16: Cunning Stalker
Level 18: Disciple of Lore


ITEMS
Luckblade Rapier +4 x1
Elven Battle Leather Armor +4 x1
Amulet of False Life +4 x1
Boots of Striding (heroic tier) x1
Belt of Vigor (paragon tier) x1
Bracers of Mighty Striking (paragon tier) x1
Diadem of Acuity (heroic tier) x1
Gauntlets of Blood (paragon tier) x1


====== End ======

Drow Hexblade (striker)
====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Elkantar, level 19
Drow, Warlock (Hexblade), Legendary Hexblade
Pact: Fey Pact of the White Well
 
FINAL ABILITY SCORES
STR 12, CON 14, DEX 23, INT 11, WIS 9, CHA 23
 
STARTING ABILITY SCORES
STR 11, CON 13, DEX 16, INT 10, WIS 8, CHA 16
 
 
AC: 33 Fort: 29 Ref: 32 Will: 33
HP: 126 Surges: 8 Surge Value: 31
 
TRAINED SKILLS
Arcana +14, Bluff +20, Intimidate +22, Stealth +25
 
UNTRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +14, Athletics +9, Diplomacy +17, Dungeoneering +8, Endurance +10, Heal +8, History +9, Insight +8, Nature +8, Perception +8, Religion +9, Streetwise +15, Thievery +14
 
POWERS
Basic Attack: Melee Basic Attack
Basic Attack: Ranged Basic Attack
Drow Racial Power: Cloud of Darkness
Warlock Utility: Soul Step
Warlock Attack: Moonfire Blade
Warlock Attack: Well of Light
Warlock Attack 1: Eldritch Bolt
Warlock Utility 2: Spectral Fade
Warlock Utility 4: Lesser Planar Ally
Warlock Utility 6: Fey Switch
Warlock Attack 7: Moonlit Escape
Warlock Attack 9: Summon Warlock's Ally
Warlock Utility 10: Spined Devil's Boon
Valiant Hexblade Attack 11: Curse of Blinding Radiance
Valiant Hexblade Utility 12: White Well Invocation
Warlock Attack 15: Armor of Summer's Glory
Warlock Utility 16: Death Shroud Aspect
Warlock Attack 19: Memory of Blades
 
FEATS
Level 1: Heavy Blade Expertise
Level 2: Weapon Focus (Heavy Blade)
Level 4: Cunning Stalker
Level 6: Superior Reflexes
Level 8: Great Fortitude
Level 10: Toughness
Level 11: Superior Will
Level 12: Resilient Focus
Level 14: Improved Initiative
Level 16: Blindfighting Warrior
Level 18: Defensive Mobility
 
ITEMS
Elven Battle Hide Armor +4 x1
Rod of Malign Conveyance +4 x1
Elven Cloak +4 x1
Gauntlets of Blood (paragon tier) x1
Boots of Striding (heroic tier) x1
Bracers of Mighty Striking (paragon tier) x1
Ironskin Belt (paragon tier) x1
Helm of Battle (heroic tier) x1
Sword of the White Well x1
====== End ======

Dwarf Knight (defender)
====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Morgran, level 19
Dwarf, Fighter (Knight), Stalwart Knight
Knight Option: Shield Finesse
Knight Weapon Specialization Option: Staggering Hammer
Level 12 Stalwart Knight Greater Weapon Specialization Option: Bludgeoning Counterstrike
Shield Dwarf (Nature class skill)
 
FINAL ABILITY SCORES
STR 23, CON 22, DEX 12, INT 9, WIS 15, CHA 11
 
STARTING ABILITY SCORES
STR 16, CON 15, DEX 11, INT 8, WIS 14, CHA 10
 
 
AC: 36 Fort: 34 Ref: 28 Will: 28
HP: 155 Surges: 15 Surge Value: 40
 
TRAINED SKILLS
Athletics +18, Diplomacy +14, Nature +16
 
UNTRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +8, Arcana +8, Bluff +9, Dungeoneering +13, Endurance +15, Heal +11, History +8, Insight +11, Intimidate +9, Perception +11, Religion +8, Stealth +8, Streetwise +9, Thievery +8
 
POWERS
Basic Attack: Melee Basic Attack
Basic Attack: Ranged Basic Attack
Dwarf Racial Power: Dwarven Resilience
Fighter Attack: Battle Guardian
Multiple Class Utility: Defender Aura
Fighter Utility: Poised Assault
Fighter Utility: Hammer Hands
Multiple Class Attack: Power Strike
Fighter Utility: Defend the Line
Fighter Utility: Battle Wrath
Stalwart Knight Utility 12: Bludgeoning Counterstrike
Fighter Utility 2: Push Forward
Fighter Utility 6: Rapid Advance
Fighter Utility 8: Shield Block
Fighter Utility 10: Defensive Advance
Fighter Utility 16: Bolstering Stride
 
FEATS
Shield Finesse
Level 1: Bludgeon Expertise
Level 2: Weapon Focus (Hammer)
Level 4: Toughness
Level 6: Improved Defenses
Level 8: World Serpent's Grasp
Level 10: Disciple of Strength
Level 11: Superior Will
Level 12: Disciple of Stone
Level 14: Resilient Focus
Level 16: Improved Initiative
Level 18: Superior Fortitude
 
ITEMS
Vicious Warhammer +4 x1
Black Iron Plate Armor +4 x1
Plate Armor
Adventurer's Kit
Warhammer
Heavy Shield x1
Amulet of False Life +4 x1
Belt of Vigor (paragon tier) x1
Bracers of Mighty Striking (paragon tier) x1
Battlestrider Greaves (paragon tier) x1
Helm of Battle (heroic tier) x1
Gauntlets of Blood (paragon tier) x1
====== End ======

Half-elf Warpriest (leader)
====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Pieter, level 19
Half-Elf, Cleric (Warpriest), Devout Warpriest
Domain: Torm Domain
Half-Elf Power Selection Option: Knack for Success
 
FINAL ABILITY SCORES
STR 15, CON 21, DEX 9, INT 14, WIS 23, CHA 11
 
STARTING ABILITY SCORES
STR 14, CON 14, DEX 8, INT 13, WIS 16, CHA 10
 
 
AC: 35 Fort: 31 Ref: 29 Will: 33
HP: 133 Surges: 12 Surge Value: 37
 
TRAINED SKILLS
Diplomacy +16, History +16, Insight +24, Religion +16
 
UNTRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +6, Arcana +11, Athletics +9, Bluff +9, Dungeoneering +15, Endurance +12, Heal +15, Intimidate +9, Nature +15, Perception +17, Stealth +6, Streetwise +9, Thievery +6
 
POWERS
Basic Attack: Melee Basic Attack
Basic Attack: Ranged Basic Attack
Half-Elf Racial Power: Knack for Success
Cleric Attack: Smite Undead
Cleric Utility: Healing Word
Cleric Utility: Holy Cleansing
Cleric Utility: Resurrection
Cleric Utility 1: Outmaneuver
Cleric Attack 1: Blessing of Law
Cleric Attack 1: Shielding Strike
Cleric Utility 1: True Strike
Cleric Utility 2: Bless
Cleric Utility 6: Cure Serious Wounds
Cleric Attack 7: Tactical Strike
Cleric Attack 9: Pariah's Curse
Cleric Utility 10: Battle Surge
Devout Warpriest Utility 11: Divine Resurgence
Devout Warpriest Utility 12: Rally the Troops
Cleric Attack 13: Thunderous Blow
Cleric Attack 15: Levy of Damnation
Cleric Utility 16: Divine Armor
Cleric Attack 17: Honorable Challenge
Cleric Attack 19: Unconquerable Spirit
 
FEATS
Level 1: Armor Proficiency: Scale
Level 2: Weapon Proficiency (Longsword)
Level 4: Heavy Blade Expertise
Level 6: Weapon Focus (Heavy Blade)
Level 8: Heavy Armor Agility
Level 10: Superior Will
Level 11: Improved Defenses
Level 12: Improved Initiative
Level 14: Resilient Focus
Level 16: Toughness
Level 18: Disciple of Death
 
ITEMS
Scale Armor of Durability +4 x1
Cloak of Resistance +4 x1
Flaming Longsword +4 x1
Shield of the Guardian (paragon tier) x1
Heavy Shield x1
Battlestrider Greaves (paragon tier) x1
Diadem of Acuity (heroic tier) x1
Ironskin Belt (paragon tier) x1
====== End ======

Elf Hunter (controller)
====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Chaedi, level 19
Wood Elf, Ranger (Hunter), Peerless Hunter
Archery Style Option: Crossbow Hunter
Ranger Wilderness Knacks Option: Ambush Expertise (Ranger)
Ranger Wilderness Knacks Option: Watchful Rest (Ranger)
Level 4 Wilderness Knack Option: Mountain Guide (Ranger)
Level 8 Wilderness Knack Option: Wilderness Tracker (Ranger)
Wild Elf (+2 to Perception)
 
FINAL ABILITY SCORES
STR 11, CON 12, DEX 25, INT 11, WIS 21, CHA 9
 
STARTING ABILITY SCORES
STR 10, CON 11, DEX 18, INT 10, WIS 14, CHA 8
 
 
AC: 33 Fort: 28 Ref: 34 Will: 31
HP: 124 Surges: 7 Surge Value: 33
 
TRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +21, Athletics +18, Nature +23, Perception +28, Stealth +25
 
UNTRAINED SKILLS
Arcana +9, Bluff +8, Diplomacy +8, Dungeoneering +14, Endurance +10, Heal +14, History +9, Insight +14, Intimidate +8, Religion +9, Streetwise +8, Thievery +16
 
POWERS
Basic Attack: Melee Basic Attack
Basic Attack: Ranged Basic Attack
Elf Racial Power: Elven Accuracy
Ranger Utility: Aspect of the Regal Lion
Ranger Utility: Aspect of the Lurking Spider
Ranger Attack: Disruptive Shot
Ranger Attack: Aimed Shot
Ranger Attack: Clever Shot
Ranger Attack: Rapid Shot
Ranger Utility: Aspect of the Pack Wolf
Ranger Utility: Aspect of the Dancing Serpent
Ranger Utility 2: Stalker's Mist
Ranger Utility 5: Reactive Shift
Multiple Class Utility 6: Leaf Wall
Ranger Utility 10: Verdant Flames
Peerless Hunter Utility 12: Hunter's Grasping Trap
Ranger Utility 16: Howling Winds
 
FEATS
Crossbow Expertise
Level 1: Weapon Focus (Crossbow)
Level 2: Cunning Stalker
Level 4: Wasteland Wanderer
Level 6: World Serpent's Grasp
Level 8: Great Fortitude
Level 10: Resilient Focus
Level 11: Superior Reflexes
Level 12: Vicious Advantage
Level 14: Toughness
Level 16: Superior Will
Level 18: Defensive Mobility
 
ITEMS
Sylvan Leather Armor +4 x1
Amulet of False Life +4 x1
Headband of Perception (paragon tier) x1
Flame Bracers (paragon tier) x1
Boots of Striding (heroic tier) x1
Gauntlets of Blood (paragon tier) x1
Belt of Vigor (paragon tier) x1
Vicious Crossbow +4 x1
Magic Longsword +3====== End ======




Note!


I intend to run the actual test during the week of Monday, August 29 (my last week of relative freedom before classes resume).  If you have feedback, marching orders, jeering, mockery, sarcasm, or other commentary to add, please do so before then!

II. Combat Setup and Tactics

Introduction


I'm aiming at level 19.  The reason is that, from my own play experiences on both sides of the screen and those of friends, high paragon tier is one of the hardest spots in the game.  You're not yet epic level, but many of your foes are, and feats and class features that scale by tier haven't ticked over.  You've left the major power boosts of your paragon path far behind, but haven't yet arrived at the benefits of an epic destiny.

I'm also planning to pitch a level +4 encounter at the party.  An at-level encounter isn't particularly appropriate, because those have a low resource cost (almost) regardless of party composition.  Overleveled encounters, though, tend to be more difficult--and, in fact, are the best reason for including controllers in a party, since controllers can ideally interrupt or hold back waves of enemies while the remainder of the party focuses fire.

Level +4 is also a sweet spot, for me; it's high enough that the PCs have to take it seriously, and should be blowing daily and magic item powers, but not so high that PCs ought to be dying--at least, not early or easily.

So here's the planned encounter (25,600 xp):
1 Elder Black Dragon, Level 18 Solo Lurker (10,000 xp)
2 Blackroot Treants, Level 19 Elite Soldier (2 x 4,800 xp = 9,600 xp)
3 Bodak Death Drinkers, Level 18 Controller (3 x 2,000 xp = 6,000 xp) 


I'll be using this map, originally from the Monster Vault: Threats To The Nentir Vale box and recently featured in Dungeon (whence the image).


Setup


Here's my thirty-second, off-the-top-of-my-head backstory: one of the most powerful temples of Corellon was suddenly and unexpectedly razed by a force of undead and twisted fey.  The PCs are investigating, and have trailed the attackers to a marsh that once housed a hidden temple to Vecna.  The black dragon is a mercenary servant of the cult that was responsible for the attack, and with a handful of undead allies is lying in wait for the PCs near an abandoned and half-rotted dwelling built by wild elves.

The dragon begins the encounter lurking just underwater, and the blackroot treants are standing in normal groves of trees trying to look inconspicuous.  The bodaks are in the open.  Trees are difficult terrain and provide cover; the water is 10 feet deep throughout.


Technical Stuff


I pre-rolled "dice" using the Random Integer Generator function at random.org. For anyone who's curious, the list of dice rolls can be found here on Google Docs.

Pictures will be/are/were taken with my iPhone 4, because it's handy and reasonably high-resolution.

III. Play By Play, Results, and Notes

Introduction


This runs a little long.  It's cut down from my 40+ pages of notes from the encounter, which I can see now was a little... excessive.  Nevertheless, the play-by-play isn't going to be terribly riveting.  The results and notes, however, include brief (literal) snapshots of gameplay, as well as summaries of hit points and a brief narrative assessment of the state of play.


(Okay, this still isn't completely done; images are still Coming Soon!  Text is all up, though.)


Before Combat


Map and Tokens
Coming Soon!

Round 1


Round 1 Play-By-Play
The initiative order:
Hunter
Knight
Hexblade
Bodak Death Drinkers
Dragon's Instinctive Devouring
Warpriest
Blackroot Treants
Bladesinger
Elder Black Dragon

The hunter sees everything, and lays some control down on the dragon.  She spends an action point for Disruptive Shot and uses Clever Shot with her normal action; she deals a total of 43 damage, and the dragon is blind, prone, and pushed 2 squares.  The hunter also uses Stalker's Mist to generate some concealment for the party.

The knight advances to the center of the ring of enemies and readies a charge.

The hexblade activates Memory of Blades and hides in the Stalker's Mist.

The bodaks don't see the hexblade, and one stumbles on him; the hexblade's resulting opportunity attack results in the PCs discovering they don't want to provoke Agonizing Gaze.  The hexblade deals a total of 56 damage between Moonfire Blade and Memory of Blades, but the bodaks deal 69 to him.

The dragon is prone and out of range, so Instinctive Devouring is wasted this round.

The warpriest uses Honorable Challenge against a bodak and misses.

The first treant provokes the knight's readied charge, which misses.  It responds with Entangling Roots and a couple of slam attacks.  The knight takes a total of 42 damage and ongoing 10 which is negated by his Black Iron armor; he's also prone and restrained.  The second treant hits the hunter with Entangling Roots and charges the bladesinger for 15 damage and ongoing 10 necrotic.  The hunter is prone and restrained.

The bladesinger takes 10 ongoing, turns on bladesong, moves up, and uses Force Volley against the treants and the dragon.  He hits one treant and the dragon, dazing them and dealing 31 damage to each.  He then takes 10 necrotic from Killing Roots, and fails to save against the ongoing necrotic damage.

The dragon is prone, blind, and dazed.  The dragon spends its action to stand up, and Action Recovery ends the dazed effect.

Round 1 Results and Notes
At the end of round 1:
Bodak 1: 129/175 hp
Bodak 2: 165/175 hp
Bodak 3: 175/175 hp
Treant 1: 386/386 hp; 1 AP
Treant 2: 386/386 hp; 1 AP
Dragon: 633/676 hp; 2 AP

Hexblade: 57/126 hp; 1 AP
Knight: 113/155 hp; 1 AP
Bladesinger: 91/126 hp; 1 AP
Hunter: 124/124 hp
Warpriest: 133/133 hp; 1 AP

Notes

The first round is fairly inconclusive, but I'm vaguely worried for the PCs.  The combination of positioning and Agonizing Gaze has resulted in a serious problem: the hexblade and warpriest, who due to their preferred damage type are poorly equipped to even fight near the bodaks, are tied up in melee with them.

In retrospect, however, I should already have been worried about damage output.  I note now, looking at my spreadsheet, that the monsters dealt nearly half again as much damage as the PCs in this round--and the dragon hasn't even joined the fight.


Round 2


Round 2 Play-By-Play
The initiative order:

Hunter
Hexblade
Bodak Death Drinkers
Dragon's Instinctive Devouring
Warpriest
Knight
Blackroot Treants
Bladesinger
Elder Black Dragon

(The initiative order remains constant for the rest of the encounter.)

The hunter figures more of a good thing can't be bad, so she stands up and uses Disruptive Shot.  She hits for 30 damage and chooses to immobilize the dragon (save ends), but fails to save against the restrained condition.  She takes 10 damage from Killing Roots.

The hexblade is immobilized, but uses his Rod of Malign Conveyance to get himself, a bodak, and the warpriest away from the rest of the bodaks.  He's still too close to the bodaks to comfortably use a radiant power, so he defaults to Eldritch Bolt.  He deals 30 damage, but fails to save against immobilized--which means he's now immobilized and weakened.

The bodaks have a bad round, and fail to capitalize on the hexblade's vulnerable condition.  One hits the warpriest for 31 damage, and now he's immobilized too.

The dragon's Instinctive Devouring is wasted again; this time it's immobilized, and out of range of everything.

The warpriest uses Healing Word on the bloodied hexblade, who gets back a total of 45 hp. The hexblade can teleport next to the warpriest and does, and everyone but the warpriest gets a saving throw!  The hexblade throws off the bodaks' immobilized and weakened nastiness, the bladesinger gets rid of his ongoing damage, and the knight becomes un-restrained.  Only the hunter fails to save.  The warpriest also hits a bodak with Thunderous Blow for 22 damage, and at the end of his turn makes his saving throw against the immobilized condition.

The knight ignores his ongoing necrotic damage and crawls over to two of the the bodaks, provoking an opportunity attack from a treant and getting smacked for 19 damage.  He reaches the bodaks and hits one with Power Strike for 36 damage.

One treant misses the hunter with Entangling Roots and uses Double Attack on the knight for a total of 15 damage.  The other was dazed by the bladesinger, and hits the hunter with Entangling Roots again.

The bladesinger uses Spectral Ram against a treant and crits for 51 force damage, pushing it away from the party and knocking it prone.  As a minor action he makes an MBA against the other treant, dealing 18 damage and using Shadow Sever to deal 7 more damage and knock it prone. Then the bladesinger teleports with Bladespell Step to a space adjacent to all three bodaks, and uses an action point for Choir of Swords. 

(Note: I followed the only CS ruling I could find, which was here: spend an AP and instead of gaining a standard action, make MBAs against all adjacent enemies.)

The bladesinger hits all three bodaks, dealing a total of 90 damage, and uses the various bladespells (which deal 21 more damage) to push the prone treant and one of the bodaks around.  The bladesinger finishes out the turn by using Blur.

The dragon is immobilized and irritable, having wasted three actions so far.  It attacks the pesky hunter with Acid Gob and misses horribly, and saves against the immobilize at the end of its turn.


Round 2 Results and Notes
At the end of round 2:
Bodak 1: 64/175 hp
Bodak 2: 93/175 hp
Bodak 3: 130/175 hp
Treant 1: 335/386 hp; 1 AP
Treant 2: 323/386 hp; 1 AP
Dragon: 572/676 hp; 2 AP

Hexblade: 102/126 hp; 1 AP
Knight: 113/155 hp; 1 AP
Bladesinger: 91/126 hp
Hunter: 114/124 hp
Warpriest: 102/133 hp; 1 AP

Notes

This is probably the best moment in the fight for the PCs.  The warpriest has spent one Healing Word, but the PCs are relatively undamaged and the bodaks have collectively lost about half their hit points.  The bladesinger also really let loose this turn, with an AOE nova that dealt nearly 200 points of damage.

However, it's at this point that I realized the PCs were actually in more trouble than they were letting on.  The bladesinger has now exhausted half his daily resources and most of his encounter resources, and may have trouble contributing substantial damage in the remainder of the fight.  The hexblade is still backpedaling furiously from the bodaks, and is currently functioning as weak artillery support.  I'm pleasantly surprised to find that the group has managed to keep the dragon and treants under wraps for the most part, but I wonder idly whether the party has enough single-target DPR to make it.


Round 3


Round 3 Play-By-Play
The hunter is prone and restrained, but undaunted.  She stands and uses Clever Shot against the dragon.  She misses with a 2 on the die, and she uses Elven Accuracy... and rolls a 5.  As a minor she places Hunter's Grasping Trap in front of the northern treant; at the end of her turn she fails her save against restrained.

The hexblade shifts away from the bodaks into the Stalker's Mist, and successfully hides.  He uses Eldritch Bolt with combat advantage, and rolls a 1.

One bodak bucks the knight's Defender Aura to attack the bladesinger, and pays for it when the knight hits for 21 damage--and the provoking attack misses anyway.  Another one, having witnessed the object lesson, attacks the knight but misses.  The last one shifts into a flank against the bladesinger and hits for 25 necrotic damage and immobilized (save ends).

The dragon finally gets to charge someone with Instinctive Devouring, and goes for the hunter.  The dragon misses, dealing 10 damage as a consolation prize, and gets even more annoyed.

The warpriest remembers to turn his flaming sword on, moves into a slightly better position, and surveys his remaining non-radiant options with mild alarm.  He settles on Blessing of Law, and hits a bodak for 13 damage.  He uses Knack for Success on the bladesinger, who fails to save against the immobilized condition.

The knight attacks a bodak and Power Strikes for 28 damage, uses his action point for another MBA, and misses.

One treant stands, hits the knight with Entangling Roots, and charges him for 13 damage.  The other stands, hits the hunter with Entangling Roots, and charges.  Unfortunately it hits the Grasping Trap and is thrown back and slowed.

The bladesinger is immobilized, and doesn't care.  It uses Mass Charm against a bodak, a treant, and the dragon.  The bodak misses, and the treant crits the bodak.  The dragon misses the bodak with its bite, but the miss damage kills it anyway.  The power deals a total of 36 damage.  He makes an MBA with Arcane Strike but misses.  He also fails his save against the immobilized condition, which becomes immobilized and weakened.

The dragon is finally up and free of control.  It uses Shroud of Gloom, which causes all PCs to take a -2 penalty to attacks and gain vulnerable 10 acid.  It then spends an action point to use its breath weapon, gleefully realizes it can catch all five PCs in the blast, and hits the hexblade and hunter for 21 acid damage (31 with vulnerability) and ongoing 15 acid damage.  The knight, bladesinger, and warpriest take 10 acid damage (20 with Shroud of Gloom) and ongoing 10 acid.  The knight resists 5 because he's bloodied.

The dragon throws a scaly smirk at the obscured outline of the hunter, now dripping and sizzling with acid.


Round 3 Results and Notes
At the end of round 3:
Bodak 1: Dead!
Bodak 2: 52/175 hp
Bodak 3: 130/175 hp
Treant 1: 335/386 hp; 1 AP
Treant 2: 323/386 hp; 1 AP
Dragon: 572/676 hp; 1 AP

Hexblade: 71/126 hp; 1 AP
Knight: 51/155 hp
Bladesinger: 46/126 hp
Hunter: 73/124 hp
Warpriest: 82/133 hp; 1 AP

Notes

Apparently elder dragons are scary.  Who knew?  It's definitely the warpriest's turn to shine, with the PCs starting to run low on hit points.  Unfortunately, even with one bodak dead and one on the cusp, the party has almost entirely failed to damage the treants and dragon.  I start to seriously wonder if the party can handle the fight.

And in retrospect, the existing problems in the party are becoming even more apparent. The hexblade still can't contribute substantially, because even 20 necrotic damage from Agonizing Gaze represents 1/6 of his hit points; the bladesinger spent a daily for a very moderate contribution to damage, and is now nearly out of daily powers.  Where is the DPR to drop that dragon going to come from?


Round 4


Round 4 Play-By-Play
The hunter takes 25 damage from Shroud of Gloom and ongoing 15 acid damage, and becomes bloodied.  She's also prone and restrained.  She stands up, activates her Amulet of False Life for 33 temps, and makes her third Disruptive Shot against the dragon.  Despite Shroud of Gloom and a treant's mark, she hits for 27 damage.  The dragon is immobilized (save ends) and pushed 3 squares.  She saves against restrained, but not against the ongoing damage.

The hexblade takes 25 damage from Shroud of Gloom and ongoing 15 acid damage, and becomes bloodied.  He shifts back and uses Eldritch Bolt against the bloodied bodak and deals 29 damage.  He spends an action point to heal 6 and attack again with Eldritch Bolt, and crits the bodak for 46 damage.  He teleports over to the southern treant and throws up a Cloud of Darkness.

At the end of his turn, the hexblade takes 10 damage from the treant's Killing Roots and fails to save against the ongoing damage.

(Note: The dragon just eclipsed everyone but the bladesinger as the most potent damage-dealer on the board.)

The remaining bodak shifts away and attacks the bladesinger with Visions of Mortality.  It hits and the bladesinger is stunned.

The dragon is immobilized during its Instinctive Devouring, AGAIN, and is essentially forced to attack the hexblade--who is insubstantial and sitting in a Cloud of Darkness.  The dragon misses, and the hexblade takes 10 acid damage as a miss effect (vulnerable 10 makes it 20, and insubstantial reduces it back down to 10).

The warpriest takes 20 acid damage from Shroud of Gloom and ongoing 10 acid damage, and becomes bloodied.  He uses his daily Battle Surge, and fixes his four bloodied allies--for the moment, at least.  He uses Healing Word on the hunter, which allows the hunter to teleport and all four allies to make saving throws.  The hexblade and bladesinger fail to throw off their ongoing damage, but the knight saves.  The hunter gets rid of the restrained condition.

The knight stands up and can't reach anyone, so he makes a successful Heal check to end Shroud of Gloom on himself.  He saves against the restrained condition.

The southern treant hits the knight with Entangling Roots through the Cloud of Darkness, and the knight becomes restrained (but this time successfully saves to avoid being knocked prone).  The treant shifts back and makes a successful Heal check to allow the dragon to save against being immobilized, which it does.

The northern treant is slowed at the edge of the map, but doesn't let that stop it.  It makes a running jump, moves four squares, moves 2 squares as part of a charge, and attacks the stunned bladesinger.  Perhaps unsurprisingly it misses, but is in excellent position for next round.

The bladesinger takes 20 acid damage from Shroud of Gloom and ongoing 10 acid damage, and becomes bloodied.  He fails the saving throw allowed by Superior Will, and at the end of his turn fails to save against the ongoing acid damage.

The dragon recharges its breath weapon, flies over the party, and smacks everyone but the hexblade with another blast of acid.  It hits the knight, bladesinger, and warpriest for 31 acid damage and ongoing 15 (41, for those with Shroud of Gloom) and crits the hunter for 35 acid damage and ongoing 15.  (The hunter actually loses all 33 temps and 12 hp.)  The knight, bladesinger, and warpriest are all bloodied.


Round 4 Results and Notes
At the end of round 4:
Bodak 1: Dead!
Bodak 2: Dead!
Bodak 3: 130/175 hp
Treant 1: 335/386 hp; 1 AP
Treant 2: 323/386 hp; 1 AP
Dragon: 545/676 hp; 1 AP

Hexblade: 65/126 hp
Knight: 60/155 hp
Bladesinger: 18/126 hp
Hunter: 69/124 hp
Warpriest: 58/133 hp; 1 AP

Notes

At this point, I left for Labor Day weekend with family, so I got to do a lot of thinking about the way the encounter is progressing.  First, the PCs are obviously in serious trouble: the dragon has now slapped them around two turns in a row, and despite the cleric dropping some serious healing this turn, 60% of the party is bloodied (and the other two aren't in superb shape either).  Furthermore, Shroud of Gloom + ongoing acid damage is much more potent than I'd initially imagined, and the party is significantly depleted of resources but still can't put together any significant damage of their own.

And, again in retrospect, Round 4 is the inflection point of this particular catastrophe curve.  If the PCs had started running right now, they would lose but would all have survived; in a very short time, that will no longer be the case.  There's no more keeping the dragon out of the encounter, and in fact even the soft control of positioning is about to vanish--which means Killing Roots is about to live up to its name.

Oh, and the most powerful monsters still have APs left.


Round 5


Round 5 Play-By-Play
The hunter takes 25 acid damage from Shroud of Gloom and ongoing 15 acid damage, becoming bloodied.  She moves into the Stalker's Mist and hides before using her last Disruptive Shot against the dragon.  She hits, deals 21 damage, blinds it, and pushes it 3 squares back and down to the ground.  At the end of her turn she succeeds against the ongoing damage.

The hexblade would take 25 acid damage from Shroud of Gloom and ongoing 15 acid, but fortunately is still insubstantial and so takes half damage.  He's now bloodied anyway.  He hides in the Cloud of Darkness and then crits the southern treant with Well of Light for 79 damage and teleports it 4 squares away.  As a minor he pops Spined Devil's Boon, but fails to save against the ongoing damage.

The remaining bodak shifts back and charges the bladesinger, but misses.  It regains 10 hp from Killing Roots.

The dragon is blinded during Instinctive Devouring, and can only reach the hexblade--who has Memory of Blades and Spined Devil's Boon up.  It declines to make an attack.

The warpriest takes 25 acid damage from Shroud of Gloom and ongoing 15, and uses his last Healing Word on himself to recover 48 hit points.  The knight and bladesinger can make saving throws; the bladesinger fails to save against the ongoing damage, but the knight is no longer restrained. 

The warpriest then shifts, uses Smite Undead against the bodak, and rolls a 2.  The power deals 16 radiant damage on a miss (26 due to the bodak's vulnerability), and the warpriest takes 10 from Agonizing Gaze.  The bladesinger takes advantage of the opening to shift into a flank.  The warpriest uses an action point to use Tactical Strike, which misses but allows the bladesinger to spend a healing surge.  Despite the sea of bad rolls, the warpriest does save against the ongoing damage.

The knight resists 6 ongoing damage, so he takes a total of 9 from his ongoing 15 acid damage.  He charges to a space adjacent to both the northern treant and the dragon, and Power Strikes the dragon for 31 damage.  He fails to save against the ongoing damage.

The southern treant hits the hexblade with Entangling Roots, but takes 5 damage from Spined Devil's Boon.  It then moves up and charges the bladesinger, but misses.  The northern treant is already in position, but is "marked" by Defensive Aura.  It obligingly smacks the knight around with Entangling Roots, but misses twice with Double Attack.  The treants each gain 10 hp from the other's Killing Roots.

The bladesinger takes 25 acid damage from Shroud of Gloom and ongoing 15 acid damage.  He uses Prismatic Burst (his last daily attack) against the dragon and the northern treant, and hits the dragon for 21 radiant damage and blinded.  The treant takes 10 damage. 

His Arcane Strike MBA hits the remaining bodak for 23 damage, which bloodies it, and Unseen Hand does 7 more and slides the bodak over to the knight's aura.  At the end of the bladesinger's turn, he takes 20 damage from Killing Roots; he saves against both ongoing 15 and ongoing 10 acid damage.

The dragon is in a dicey position: it's blinded and in the knight's Defender Aura.  Fortunately for him--and very, very unfortunately for the PCs--he recharges his breath weapon and uses it against the knight, bladesinger, and warpriest.  The knight is hit and takes 19 acid damage and ongoing 15; the bladesinger takes 19+10 and ongoing 15, and the warpriest takes 9+10 and ongoing 10.

The bladesinger falls unconscious, and the bodak death drinker gains 10 temporary hit points.

Round 5 Results and Notes
At the end of round 5:
Bodak 1: Dead!
Bodak 2: Dead!
Bodak 3: 84/175 hp
Treant 1: 261/386 hp; 1 AP
Treant 2: 323/386 hp; 1 AP
Dragon: 472/676 hp; 1 AP

Hexblade: 53/126 hp
Knight: 60/155 hp
Bladesinger: -3/126 hp
Hunter: 56/124 hp
Warpriest: 52/133 hp

Notes

Commentary about the PCs seems rather superfluous at this point: it's obvious they accomplished nearly nothing this round, and are in much worse shape than they were six seconds ago.

The dragon has been a major factor, and in fact recharging its breath weapon was perhaps the luckiest break the monsters could have gotten.  However, the party is already sinking at this point, and in the final analysis I think the dragon's luck was just one more wave over the gunwale.


Round 6


Round 6 Play-By-Play
The hunter makes a successful Heal check to remove Shroud of Gloom from the bladesinger, and hides in the Stalker's Mist.  At the end of her turn she takes 10 damage from Killing Roots.

The hexblade takes 25 damage from Shroud of Gloom and ongoing 15 acid damage.  He flies away from the monsters and misses the southern treant with Curse of Blinding Radiance.  At the end of his turn he fails to save against the ongoing acid damage.

The bodak uses Death Touch against the knight and hits for 24 damage (the knight resists 10), and the knight is immobilized (save ends).  The bodak regains 20 hit points from Killing Roots.

During Instinctive Devouring the dragon is blinded (by Prismatic Burst) and immobilized by the Staggering Hammer effect from the knight.  It attempts to bite the knight and misses; the knight takes a total of 5 damage.

The warpriest takes the usual 25 points of damage from Shroud of Gloom and ongoing 15.  He moves up to the southern treant and misses with Unconquerable Spirit; the treant takes 14 fire damage and ongoing 5 fire from Wooden Body, and all the PCs except the hexblade regain hp.  The warpriest also uses Holy Cleansing on the knight, who succeeds on every save.  At the end of his turn, the warpriest takes 20 damage from Killing Roots and fails his save against the ongoing damage.

The knight makes an MBA against the dragon and rolls a 1, and the dragon responds in kind by missing with Tail Sweep.  The knight does successfully save against immobilized and restrained.

The southern treant takes ongoing 5 fire, and misses the warpriest but hits the knight with Entangling Roots.  It hits the bladesinger once with Double Attack, dealing 11 necrotic and ongoing 10 necrotic.  It regains 10 hp from Killing Roots, and saves against the ongoing damage. 

The northern treant moves, provoking a missed MBA from the knight, and uses Double Attack against the warpriest.  It hits for a total of 39 damage and ongoing 10 necrotic, and spends an action point to do it again for an additional 26 damage.  The warpriest falls unconscious.  The treant regains 10 hp from Killing Roots.

The bladesinger takes ongoing 15 acid damage and ongoing 10 necrotic damage, and falls unconscious.  He saves against all the ongoing damage, but fails his death save and takes 20 necrotic damage from Killing Roots.

The dragon doesn't recharge any power, but decides to fly away from the (prone, restrained, and marked) knight.  The knight misses his MBA, and the dragon finishes his movement before missing Acid Gob against the knight.  It uses an action point to repeat the attack against the hexblade, and hits.


Round 6 Results and Notes
At the end of round 6:
Bodak 1: Dead!
Bodak 2: Dead!
Bodak 3: 104/175 hp
Treant 1: 271/386 hp; 1 AP
Treant 2: 333/386 hp
Dragon: 472/676 hp

Hexblade: 28/126 hp
Knight: 62/155 hp
Bladesinger: -23/126 hp
Hunter: 79/124 hp
Warpriest: -31/133 hp

Notes

The bodak and treants are actually getting healthier due to Killing Roots.  The warpriest is down, the bladesinger is down, the hexblade is going to fall at the start of his turn, and the knight is pinned down by a pair of elite soldiers with nothing better to do than beat the snot out of him.  The bodak is waiting in the wings for someone to fail the right save.

And that's not even counting the dragon.


Rounds 7+


I actually played it out another two rounds, and it goes like this: the knight can't get away, and neither can the hexblade.  Both take substantial damage from playing with the dragon.  The hunter moves up stealthily to activate the warpriest's second wind, but the treants beat him down again.  First the warpriest dies, then the hexblade, then the bladesinger.  The knight isn't actually even unconscious, but he's taking four attacks of Entangling Roots per turn and four slam attacks; he can't get away, and he can't survive indefinitely.  The hunter is able to leave the map, but there's no particular reason the dragon can't chase her down and maul her to death, too.

So... no survivors.

IV. Conclusions

More Coming Soon!


I'm currently away from my computer in the great northern wasteland of central Michigan, and the thought of formatting an entire post on my phone over the puny second-generation tower fills me with ennui, so this will be brief (and updated early next week).


So I'll skip directly to the construct of interest: the bladesinger. The combat is currently paused at the end of Round 4, and the outcome is by no means certain: the PCs have killed two of the bodaks but have barely scratched the other enemies. The blade singer has performed better than my expectations, but I'm also starting to feel his limitations. His DPR is good, but not great; he's ahead of the hexblade, but the hexblade is also handicapped by the bodaks' Agonizing Gaze (more on this later). One point that hasn't been mentioned on Char Op (that I've seen) is that the bladesinger's DPR and control functions are somewhat exclusive of one another: distributing control over the battlefield means substantially lower single-target DPR. The bladesinger did get off an interesting AOE nova with Choir of Swords, but the cost was high: a bladesinger daily, an action point, and bladesong all in a single round. Moreover, it currently looks as if the bladesinger more or less IS that nova: his output in the two rounds after Bladesong ended can't really be counted as control OR DPR.


Anyway, more to follow once the battle is finished--probably by the afternoon on Tuesday, Sept. 6.

V. Frequently Anticipated Questions
Coming Soon!
I look forward to this.  Been wondering how the Bladesinger would measure up to a Hexblade (as a striker) and a Hunter (as a controller).  Also curious to see how the Hexblade and Hunter play out in a test like this
I see you went with the vanilla INT/DEX build. I'll be curious to see how many rounds he spends stunned. :P
I see you went with the vanilla INT/DEX build. I'll be curious to see how many rounds he spends stunned. :P



You make it sound like every encounter ever features creatures with at-will auto-hit stun powers.
Jesus Christ, I even slapped a smiley on the end, what do you want from me? Do I have to preface all of my sarcastic remarks with "WARNING: MAY CONTAIN JOKES"?
Jesus Christ, I even slapped a smiley on the end, what do you want from me? Do I have to preface all of my sarcastic remarks with "WARNING: MAY CONTAIN JOKES"?



Sorry, just seems a lot of people seriously think that happens. And to be fair, your smiley could have been malicious looking forward to a poor showing by the bladesinger.
I'm putting the over/under on number of rounds stunned at 1.5. The over will start at +140 and the under at -160.

Let me know.
Another interesting idea would be to play the encounter twice (using the same rolls), replacing the Bladesinger with a Wizard (Arcanist or Mage) or an Invoker.  DPR calculations suffice to determine how the Bladesinger fares as a striker, but control can often only be appreciated in actual play.  I suspect that a Wizard would cause some serious action denial, while the Bladesinger would occasionally provide single target action denial, but mostly contribute minor support (sliding enemies into flanks or the Knight's aura, or synergize with the Hunter to piece together some decent control between the two of them).  Ideally the Wizard would focus on control, but not neglect damage to keep the niche as similar as possible between the two (though obviously the Wizard would have greater AoE capabilities, which is almost unavoidable). 
Maybe replace the Bladesinger with a rogue, too, and see how the two compare, whether Stunning Strike, Knockout, Blinding Barrage and all outdo the Bladesinger's control.

Same could be tried with a Warlock's Dominates, zones, and stuns, too.
You are welcome to knock a level off of Varis and Thoradin from my Paragon Lab if you wish (Elf Hunter and Dwarf Knight respectively).


Edit: I'll do it for you.

Thoradin

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Thoradin, level 19
Dwarf, Fighter (Knight), Stalwart Knight
Knight Option: Shield Finesse
Knight Weapon Specialization Option: Staggering Hammer
Level 12 Stalwart Knight Greater Weapon Specialization Option: Bludgeoning Counterstrike
Shield Dwarf (+2 to Endurance)
Theme: Heir of Delzoun
 
FINAL ABILITY SCORES
STR 23, CON 14, DEX 17, INT 11, WIS 11, CHA 17
 
STARTING ABILITY SCORES
STR 16, CON 11, DEX 14, INT 10, WIS 10, CHA 14
 
 
AC: 36 Fort: 34 Ref: 31 Will: 29
HP: 137 Surges: 12 Surge Value: 36
 
TRAINED SKILLS
Diplomacy +19, Endurance +20, Intimidate +19
 
UNTRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +12, Arcana +9, Athletics +15, Bluff +12, Dungeoneering +11, Heal +9, History +9, Insight +9, Nature +9, Perception +9, Religion +9, Stealth +12, Streetwise +12, Thievery +12
 
POWERS
Basic Attack: Melee Basic Attack
Basic Attack: Ranged Basic Attack
Dwarf Racial Power: Dwarven Resilience
Fighter Attack: Battle Guardian
Multiple Class Utility: Defender Aura
Fighter Utility: Cleaving Assault
Fighter Utility: Defend the Line
Multiple Class Attack: Power Strike
Fighter Utility: Poised Assault
Fighter Utility: Battle Wrath
Stalwart Knight Utility 12: Bludgeoning Counterstrike
Fighter Utility 2: Glowering Threat
Fighter Utility 6: Dauntless Endurance
Fighter Utility 8: Shield Block
Fighter Utility 10: Iron Defiance
Fighter Utility 16: Bolstering Stride
 
FEATS
Shield Finesse
Level 1: Bludgeon Expertise
Level 2: Armor Finesse
Level 4: Improved Initiative
Level 6: Disciple of Freedom
Level 8: Resilient Focus
Level 10: Superior Fortitude
Level 11: Superior Reflexes
Level 12: Superior Will
Level 14: Weapon Focus (Hammer)
Level 16: World Serpent's Grasp
Level 18: Stoneroot's Endurance
 
ITEMS
Vicious Warhammer +4 x1
Black Iron Plate Armor +4 x1
Heavy Shield x1
Bracers of Mighty Striking (paragon tier) x1
Amulet of False Life +4 x1
Battlestrider Greaves (paragon tier) x1
Circlet of Authority (heroic tier) x1
Adventurer's Kit
Climber's Kit
Gauntlets of Blood (paragon tier) x1
Potion of Vitality (paragon tier)
Belt of Vigor (paragon tier) x1
Distance Throwing hammer +3
====== End ======


Varis

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Varis, level 19
Elf, Ranger (Hunter), Peerless Hunter
Archery Style Option: Crossbow Hunter
Ranger Wilderness Knacks Option: Ambush Expertise (Ranger)
Ranger Wilderness Knacks Option: Mountain Guide (Ranger)
Level 4 Wilderness Knack Option: Watchful Rest (Ranger)
Level 8 Wilderness Knack Option: Wilderness Tracker (Ranger)
Wild Elf (+2 to Perception)
Theme: Devil's Pawn
 
FINAL ABILITY SCORES
STR 11, CON 18, DEX 22, INT 11, WIS 18, CHA 13
 
STARTING ABILITY SCORES
STR 10, CON 14, DEX 16, INT 10, WIS 14, CHA 11
 
 
AC: 32 Fort: 31 Ref: 33 Will: 30
HP: 120 Surges: 10 Surge Value: 32
 
TRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +20, Dungeoneering +18, Nature +22, Perception +27, Stealth +20
 
UNTRAINED SKILLS
Arcana +9, Athletics +9, Bluff +10, Diplomacy +10, Endurance +13, Heal +13, History +9, Insight +13, Intimidate +10, Religion +9, Streetwise +10, Thievery +15
 
POWERS
Basic Attack: Melee Basic Attack
Basic Attack: Ranged Basic Attack
Devil's Pawn Attack: Hellfire and Brimstone
Elf Racial Power: Elven Accuracy
Ranger Utility: Aspect of the Pouncing Lynx
Ranger Utility: Aspect of the Dancing Serpent
Ranger Attack: Disruptive Shot
Ranger Attack: Aimed Shot
Ranger Attack: Clever Shot
Ranger Attack: Rapid Shot
Ranger Utility: Aspect of the Pack Wolf
Ranger Utility: Aspect of the Lurking Spider
Ranger Utility 2: Stalker's Mist
Ranger Utility 5: Reactive Shift
Ranger Utility 6: Thorn Ward
Ranger Utility 10: Hunter's Thorn Trap
Peerless Hunter Utility 12: Hunter's Grasping Trap
Ranger Utility 16: Howling Winds
 
FEATS
Crossbow Expertise
Level 1: Improved Initiative
Level 2: World Serpent's Grasp
Level 4: Resilient Focus
Level 6: Stoneroot's Endurance
Level 8: Superior Reflexes
Level 10: Superior Will
Level 11: Superior Fortitude
Level 12: Hidden Sniper
Level 14: Distant Advantage
Level 16: Terrain Advantage
Level 18: Wasteland Wanderer
 
ITEMS
Vicious Crossbow +4 x1
Veteran's Leather Armor +4 x1
Amulet of False Life +4 x1
Flame Bracers (paragon tier) x1
Gauntlets of Blood (paragon tier) x1
Boots of Striding and Springing (paragon tier) x1
Headband of Perception (paragon tier) x1
Belt of Vigor (paragon tier) x1
Potion of Vitality (paragon tier)
Adventurer's Kit
Crossbow Bolt
Climber's Kit
====== End ======


I wouldn't say thier fully optimized but they should meet your basic requirements (you may want to fiddle with Thoradin's stats to even them out).
Which of the three cha/dex builds were you thinking for hexblade? The two fey pacts are probably better choices in this case, since they are more focused on being strikers, where the gloom blade is almost more of a controller than a striker. The winter blade will be easier to work up, probably, but not by much. (we all know the feat taxes for light blade arcane melee combatants)





aside (I honestly think the gloom blade should often be considered as if it were a seperate subclass for stuff like this, because it just should have had a controll thing instead of the off stat damage boost and been called a controller. again, IMO)


Another aside (I hope that at some point, someone throws the non int striker bladesinger into a lab, since that seems to be the most practical way to build one.)
Skeptical_Clown wrote:
More sex and gender equality and racial equality shouldn't even be an argument--it should simply be an assumption for any RPG that wants to stay relevant in the 21st century.
104340961 wrote:
Pine trees didn't unanimously decide one day that leaves were gauche.
http://community.wizards.com/doctorbadwolf/blog/2012/01/10/how_we_can_help_make_dndnext_awesome
Which of the three cha/dex builds were you thinking for hexblade? The two fey pacts are probably better choices in this case, since they are more focused on being strikers, where the gloom blade is almost more of a controller than a striker. The winter blade will be easier to work up, probably, but not by much. (we all know the feat taxes for light blade arcane melee combatants)

White Well. (I'll spend some time, probably late tonight, throwing more builds up in the post).  Imposing even weak radiant vulnerability is a nice cherry on top of a decent nova.

I would have loved to do Gloom Pact, since I really think it's got better controller potential than the bladesinger.  But it requires some non-Essentials feats to really shine, IMO, so I think I'll leave it for a future test.

Another aside (I hope that at some point, someone throws the non int striker bladesinger into a lab, since that seems to be the most practical way to build one.)

Absolutely planning on a thri-kreen or half-elf bladesinger at some point in the relatively near future (among other things, after I'm done working on XDMC 30).  But first I wanted to get a baseline for the performance of the class as it was apparently intended--particularly since my feeling is the broader the options for other PCs, the worse the bladesinger will look by comparison.
I. Intro and Cast of Characters

I've been involved in the ongoing conversation about the bladesinger lately, and I'm definitely a skeptic.  I haven't played one yet, but I don't see how their control can be particularly strong, and I don't think they stand out in the striker role, either. 

But I'm also certainly willing to give the bladesinger a fighting chance.  I think it will be interesting to test how it performs in play against level-appropriate foes, and to compare its performance with another couple of underrated classes: the hunter and the hexblade.  Rounding out the party will be a knight, which I've seen put out perfectly acceptable performance as a defender, and a warpriest for healing, buffing, and off-tank duties.

I'm happy with this set of classes, but races and builds are by no means set in stone.  In fact I'm soliciting advice and/or full builds from the community here; I don't claim to be an expert on every aspect of optimization, and I have no prior experience with optimizing Essentials-only builds (among other things, it looks to me like you run out of interesting feats to take by about the end of heroic).  The only requirement is that for this test, PCs should be 19th-level and Essentials-only--meaning material is restricted to Heroes of the Fallen Lands, Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms, the DM's Kit, and the Neverwinter Campaign Setting.

The current group is:


Eladrin Bladesinger (controller)
====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Aramil, level 19
Sun Elf (Eladrin), Wizard (Bladesinger), Sorcerous Sword

Blade Magic Option: Rapier
Sun Elf (+2 to Arcana)


FINAL ABILITY SCORES
STR 11, CON 14, DEX 21, INT 23, WIS 15, CHA 9


STARTING ABILITY SCORES
STR 10, CON 13, DEX 14, INT 16, WIS 14, CHA 8


AC: 34 Fort: 27 Ref: 31 Will: 31
HP: 126 Surges: 9 Surge Value: 33


TRAINED SKILLS


Arcana +25, Athletics +15, History +23, Nature +17, Perception +19


UNTRAINED SKILLS


Acrobatics +14, Bluff +8, Diplomacy +8, Dungeoneering +11, Endurance +11, Heal +11, Insight +13, Intimidate +8, Religion +15, Stealth +14, Streetwise +8, Thievery +14


POWERS
Basic Attack: Melee Basic Attack
Basic Attack: Ranged Basic Attack
Eladrin Racial Power: Fey Step
Wizard Utility: Suggestion
Wizard Utility: Ghost Sound
Wizard Utility: Prestidigitation
Wizard Utility: Bladesong
Wizard Attack: Dazzling Sunray
Wizard Attack: Unseen Hand
Wizard Attack: Shadow Sever
Wizard Attack 1: Chill Strike
Wizard Attack 1: Ray of Enfeeblement
Wizard Attack 1: Magic Missile
Wizard Utility 2: Shield
Wizard Utility 2: Expeditious Retreat
Wizard Attack 3: Color Spray
Wizard Attack 3: Blissful Ignorance
Wizard Utility 6: Dimension Door
Wizard Utility 6: Invisibility
Wizard Attack 7: Spectral Ram
Wizard Attack 7: Winter's Wrath
Wizard Attack 7: Lightning Bolt
Wizard Utility 10: Blur
Wizard Utility 10: Arcane Gate
Wizard Attack 13: Prismatic Burst
Wizard Attack 13: Hold Monster
Wizard Utility 16: Fly
Wizard Utility 16: Stoneskin
Wizard Attack 17: Mass Charm
Wizard Attack 17: Force Volley


FEATS
Level 1: Light Blade Expertise
Level 2: Weapon Focus (Light blade)
Level 4: Wand Expertise
Level 6: Improved Initiative
Level 8: Resilient Focus
Level 10: Improved Defenses
Level 11: Superior Will
Level 12: Toughness
Level 14: Implement Focus (Wand)
Level 16: Cunning Stalker
Level 18: Disciple of Lore


ITEMS
Luckblade Rapier +4 x1
Elven Battle Leather Armor +4 x1
Amulet of False Life +4 x1
Boots of Striding (heroic tier) x1
Belt of Vigor (paragon tier) x1
Bracers of Mighty Striking (paragon tier) x1
Diadem of Acuity (heroic tier) x1
Gauntlets of Blood (paragon tier) x1


====== End ======


Drow Hexblade (striker)
Dwarf Knight (defender)
Half-elf Warpriest (leader)
Elf Hunter (controller)

Note!


I intend to run the actual test during the week of Monday, August 29 (my last week of relative freedom before classes resume).  If you have feedback, marching orders, jeering, mockery, sarcasm, or other commentary to add, please do so before then!


Interesting sandbox.  I'd have allowed FRCG / FRPG, seeing how Bladesinger is a class from a Forgotten Realms region book, but that would violate the "Essentials Only" nature of the experiment.  Since the only place I've ever seen Essentials-Only actually played is Encounters, maybe the experiment should be aimed at levels 1-3, although in theory that would be the easiest to keep classes power-balanced...  Curious to see what you turn up.
-Alveric "And the sword that had visited Earth from so far away smote like the falling of thunderbolts; and green sparks rose from the armour, and crimson as sword met sword; and thick elvish blood moved slowly, from wide slits, down the cuirass; and Lirazel gazed in awe and wonder and love; and the combatants edged away fighting into the forest; and branches fell on them hacked off by their fight; and the runes in Alveric's far-travelled sword exulted, and roared at the elf-knight; until in the dark of the wood, amongst branches severed from disenchanted trees, with a blow like that of a thunderbolt riving an oak tree, Alveric slew him."
Sounds like an excellent test man! Looking forward to the results
Although I'm a big advocate of actually building a Bladesinger to provide moderate control with striker features, I'll go out on a limb and prognosticate a little: the Essentials-only Bladesinger will be less-than-horrible at control and average at striking, mainly because of the lack of synergy between the Encounter-slot class features and the horrible selection of Daily-slot Wizard encounter spells.  The spell choices should include a healthy amount of zone or sustainable wall/area spells that the Bladesinger keys Bladespells off.  McCowen has mostly picked the best spells and feats available for the Essentials build, but notice the difference between what you could pick to key off of multiple-MBA Unseen Hands sliding everything into zones:
Essentials vs. Best Zone Pick:
1(1): Chill Strike/Charm of Misplaced Wrath vs. Grasping Shadows
5(3): Color Spray vs. Cordon of Bones/Hypnotic Pattern (AKA Poor Man's Visions of Avarice)
9(7): Winter's Wrath vs. Winter's Wrath (okay, that's a good thematic spell)
11(7): Lightning Bolt vs. Phantom Foes
15(13): Hold Monster/Prismatic Burst vs. Blackening Pyre/Dark Gathering
19(17): Mass Charm vs. Mass Charm (okay, this is pretty sweet too...)

Just thinking out loud here...
-Alveric "And the sword that had visited Earth from so far away smote like the falling of thunderbolts; and green sparks rose from the armour, and crimson as sword met sword; and thick elvish blood moved slowly, from wide slits, down the cuirass; and Lirazel gazed in awe and wonder and love; and the combatants edged away fighting into the forest; and branches fell on them hacked off by their fight; and the runes in Alveric's far-travelled sword exulted, and roared at the elf-knight; until in the dark of the wood, amongst branches severed from disenchanted trees, with a blow like that of a thunderbolt riving an oak tree, Alveric slew him."
Which of the three cha/dex builds were you thinking for hexblade? The two fey pacts are probably better choices in this case, since they are more focused on being strikers, where the gloom blade is almost more of a controller than a striker. The winter blade will be easier to work up, probably, but not by much. (we all know the feat taxes for light blade arcane melee combatants)

White Well. (I'll spend some time, probably late tonight, throwing more builds up in the post).  Imposing even weak radiant vulnerability is a nice cherry on top of a decent nova.

I would have loved to do Gloom Pact, since I really think it's got better controller potential than the bladesinger.  But it requires some non-Essentials feats to really shine, IMO, so I think I'll leave it for a future test.

Another aside (I hope that at some point, someone throws the non int striker bladesinger into a lab, since that seems to be the most practical way to build one.)

Absolutely planning on a thri-kreen or half-elf bladesinger at some point in the relatively near future (among other things, after I'm done working on XDMC 30).  But first I wanted to get a baseline for the performance of the class as it was apparently intended--particularly since my feeling is the broader the options for other PCs, the worse the bladesinger will look by comparison.




Sweet. Heh, it'll be kind of cool to see a striker bs and controller hexblade in a test, to compare to this one. :D One thing I do like about the new design is the fluidity in terms of source, role, etc.

Can't wait to see the results.


Skeptical_Clown wrote:
More sex and gender equality and racial equality shouldn't even be an argument--it should simply be an assumption for any RPG that wants to stay relevant in the 21st century.
104340961 wrote:
Pine trees didn't unanimously decide one day that leaves were gauche.
http://community.wizards.com/doctorbadwolf/blog/2012/01/10/how_we_can_help_make_dndnext_awesome
All the PCs are up in the first post.  I forget how many really good feats--exemplars of good design and staples of optimized builds--are not found in Essentials only.  I had to go back and remove Vicious Advantage from the hunter, and yank a bastard sword out of the warpriest's hands.
Jesus Christ, I even slapped a smiley on the end, what do you want from me? Do I have to preface all of my sarcastic remarks with "WARNING: MAY CONTAIN JOKES"?



Sorry, just seems a lot of people seriously think that happens. And to be fair, your smiley could have been malicious looking forward to a poor showing by the bladesinger.



It does happen if you play high-level LFR, or if the elite controller gets lucky with his recharge dice, etc.

And frankly, those are the situations that deserve to be tested. Not "what happens in a perfectly fair and average situation?", but rather "what happens when the encounter goes to hell and you actually need all those cool daily abilities that were handed out for precisely this reason?"

Higher baseline performance cannot make up for a lack of trump cards, and it indeed may have the exact opposite effect, by encouraging the DM to build encounters that challenge that baseline and are therefore overwhelming when bad luck comes into play.


Heh, high level LFR? It seems once you hit level 7 this kind of thing is not uncommon. (At least with the old adventures. 90% of the LFR players in my area quit about a year ago due to frustrations over either LFR or WotC. So I haven't gotten to play much since then. )
I played one H3 adventure where the entire party was stun-locked from the very start until the combat ended with us being TPKed. Every time someone would save against the initial stun, another creature would stun that player.
Some of the modules written for organized play are just that terrible. You really have to be careful what you play. There is a difference between challenging and frustrating, and I don't know why some of these writers can't seem to understand that.
The Hunter is a single target controller, not a striker, please switch to a crossbow build.
The Hunter is a single target controller, not a striker, please switch to a crossbow build.

Can you explain why?  Given the Essentials-only nature of this particular test--and therefore the superior crossbow and fun feats like Steady Shooter are out--the longbow has better range, a larger weapon die, and a better Expertise feat.
You have the benefits of the feats reversed, especially with the concealment likely in the encounter you mentioned. The Hunter's job is to lock a member of Team Monster out of the fight while the strikers and Leader kill. Blinding a Elite or solo makes it so much harder for that monster to function and unless the mob has tremor sense, following up with immobilize prone and slides can keep a monster down until team Hero is ready to kill it.
You have the benefits of the feats reversed, especially with the concealment likely in the encounter you mentioned.

But Crossbow Expertise only allows you to ignore the effects of cover, not concealment.

The Hunter's job is to lock a member of Team Monster out of the fight while the strikers and Leader kill. Blinding a Elite or solo makes it so much harder for that monster to function and unless the mob has tremor sense, following up with immobilize prone and slides can keep a monster down until team Hero is ready to kill it.

I understand what controllers do, and in fact have played exclusively defenders and controllers for over a year now.  I remain fuzzy on how the importance of action denial makes the longbow a strictly inferior option compared to the crossbow.  (It does make the superior crossbow a much better option than the greatbow... but neither is an option here.)

I'll go ahead and make the switch, based on your feedback and a review of the level 13 class feature, but I think the difference will be negligible.
How did this turn out?
Is there a summary of the labs results anywhere?
[20:53] [SadisticFish] yeah Llamas convinced me
There is the main labs one, that collates them, but not as such, I don't think. Collective might have a link.
How did this turn out?

Running it tomorrow afternoon.  Stay tuned!

EDIT 9/1/2011: I did start yesterday afternoon, but this is taking a while.  The cognitive load of simultanously running five unfamiliar high-level PCs is much heavier than expected, and I'm also being even more careful than usual with rules adjudication.  In the event that I don't finish the test before leaving for Labor Day weekend, I'll at least catch the post up to the end of Round 4 (during which the PCs discover exactly how irritated the dragon has become).
Yeah, in my labs that was a weight on my shoulders when I was playing the tables.
A brief--very brief--summary of the battle so far is up on the first page for those who are interested. More to come when I get home.
IV. Conclusions

More Coming Soon!


I'm currently away from my computer in the great northern wasteland of central Michigan, and the thought of formatting an entire post on my phone over the puny second-generation tower fills me with ennui, so this will be brief (and updated early next week).


So I'll skip directly to the construct of interest: the bladesinger. The combat is currently paused at the end of Round 4, and the outcome is by no means certain: the PCs have killed two of the bodaks but have barely scratched the other enemies. The blade singer has performed better than my expectations, but I'm also starting to feel his limitations. His DPR is good, but not great; he's ahead of the hexblade, but the hexblade is also handicapped by the bodaks' Agonizing Gaze (more on this later). One point that hasn't been mentioned on Char Op (that I've seen) is that the bladesinger's DPR and control functions are somewhat exclusive of one another: distributing control over the battlefield means substantially lower single-target DPR. The bladesinger did get off an interesting AOE nova with Choir of Swords, but the cost was high: a bladesinger daily, an action point, and bladesong all in a single round. Moreover, it currently looks as if the bladesinger more or less IS that nova: his output in the two rounds after Bladesong ended can't really be counted as control OR DPR.


Anyway, more to follow once the battle is finished--probably by the afternoon on Tuesday, Sept. 6.


Just got back to this thread a month later- that was very fun reading.  Poor bladesinger died horribly.  Of course, having the second-highest initiative bonus and going second-to-last, plus failing your first six saving throws will definitely have an impact on your survivability.  It was interesting to see the spike and fall-off in damage after the Choir of Swords nova, though- it seems to indicate that if the bladesinger doesn't end a fight quickly, they become much less deadly in the Essentials-only environment, since this means no Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide (I know, right?!?) with its MC swordmage and Eladrin Swordmage Advance, no feats/items to extend or recharge Bladesong, and no access to many wizard encounter spells that set up AOEs for Unseen Hand bladespells to take advantage of.  Ouch.  Thanks again for a fun simulation!
-Alveric "And the sword that had visited Earth from so far away smote like the falling of thunderbolts; and green sparks rose from the armour, and crimson as sword met sword; and thick elvish blood moved slowly, from wide slits, down the cuirass; and Lirazel gazed in awe and wonder and love; and the combatants edged away fighting into the forest; and branches fell on them hacked off by their fight; and the runes in Alveric's far-travelled sword exulted, and roared at the elf-knight; until in the dark of the wood, amongst branches severed from disenchanted trees, with a blow like that of a thunderbolt riving an oak tree, Alveric slew him."
yikes, that party just got ROFLstomped 

looking at what the bladesinger did i am rather disapointed that if you use its native features this is how weak it is. keep in mind that it can only do those encounterdailies once a day so chances are if this wasent the first fight it would of done even worse.

if you had the bladesinger MC in some actual daily powers (like the Rogues knockout) then i think the bladesinger would of looked alot better in this fight, so unless you accept the bladesinger as a melee striker who should always MC rogue like the executioner then i think you will find it to be semi ineffective.

in addition the only striker was a hexblade who couldent really use his primary mode of damage, by level 19 i would hope most hexblades would take a precaution against resisting their pacts primary damage type. so in situations like this they are not ineffective artillery strikers